‘… The world is increasingly farming on the margins, with most of the last few remaining near-pristine ecosystems now being invaded and destabilized. Just as inexorable is the move to rapidly growing cities of poor rural people, who are bringing their livestock with them. The resulting losses of biodiversity, and the rise of genetically improved, and thus similar, animal populations, also increases the risk of a pandemic emerging. Climate and environmental changes are generally making matters worse.
‘[Delia] Grace says research must better examine the complex, context-specific, and interrelated nature of zoonotic pathogen emergence.
‘“First”, she said, “we need to look inside the black box of the big trends driving disease emergence: urbanization, intensification, globalization, loss of habitat and biodiversity.
‘”We also need to understand what causes matter most in different situations and which are amenable to mitigation.
‘”And we need to develop ways of doing agriculture differently, ways that not only reduce disease emergence but also can be adopted at large scale.
‘”Given that disease emergence is predictably unpredictable, much can be achieved by understanding, monitoring and managing pathogen dynamics before infectious agents emerge.’
Read the paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Zoonosis emergence linked to agricultural intensification and environmental change, by Bryony A Jones, Delia Grace, Richard Kock, Silvia Alonso, Jonathan Rushton, Mohammed Y Said, Declan McKeever, Florence Mutua, Jarrah Young, John McDermott and Dirk Udo Pfeiffer, PNAS 2013 : 1208059110v1-201208059.
By Michelle Geis is a Washington DC-based science communications expert who works for Burness Communications.
On the ILRI News Blog