Researchers find that humans transmitted their diseases to wild animals nearly 100 times

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An international research team led by scientists from Georgetown University has found that humans may transmit viruses to animals more often than previously thought.

In a study published on March 22 in Ecology Letters (“Assessing the risk of human-to-wildlife pathogen transmission for conservation and public health”), the authors describe nearly a hundred different cases where diseases underwent a “return” from humans to wild animals, somewhat like SARS-CoV-2 was able to spread in mink farms, zoo lions and tigers, and wild white-tailed deer.

“There has understandably been tremendous interest in human-to-wild animal transmission of pathogens in light of the pandemic,” says Gregory Albery, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Biology at the University of Georgetown and study leader. author. “To help guide conversations and policies surrounding the return of our pathogens in the future, we dug into the literature to see how the process has played out in the past.”

In their new study, Albery and his colleagues found that almost half of identified incidents occurred in captive environments like zoos, where veterinarians closely monitor animal health and are more likely to notice when a virus is doing the trick. jump. What’s more, more than half of the cases they found were human-to-primate transmissions, an unsurprising result both because pathogens have an easier time jumping from host to host and because wild populations of endangered great apes are so closely monitored.

“This supports the idea that we are more likely to detect pathogens in places where we spend a lot of time and effort searching, with a disproportionate number of studies involving charismatic animals in or near zoos. of humans,” says Anna Fagre, DVM, Ph.D., MPH, virologist and wildlife veterinarian at Colorado State University, lead author of the study, and also published to research on the risks of SARS-CoV-2 coming back using laboratory experiments with the North American deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus). “It calls into question the cross-species transmission events we are missing, and what that might mean not just for public health, but also for the health and conservation of infected species.”

The spread of the disease has recently attracted considerable attention due to the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in wild white-tailed deer in the United States and Canada. Some data suggest that deer passed the virus back to humans in at least one case, and many scientists have expressed broader concerns that new animal reservoirs could give the virus additional chances to develop new variants.

In their new study, Albery and his colleagues find good news: Scientists can use artificial intelligence to anticipate which species might contract the virus. When the researchers compared the species infected with SARS-CoV-2 to predictions made by other researchers earlier in the pandemic, they found that the scientists were able to guess correctly more often than not.

“It’s quite satisfying to see that sequencing animal genomes and understanding their immune systems has paid off,” says Colin Carlson, Ph.D., assistant research professor at the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University. Medical Center and Author. on the study. “The pandemic has given scientists a chance to test some predictive tools, and it turns out we’re better prepared than we thought.”

The new study is part of a National Science Foundation-funded project called the Viral Emergence Research Initiative, or Verena. The Verena team is using data science and machine learning to study “host-virus network science” – a new field that aims to predict which viruses can infect humans, which animals harbor them, and where, when and why they might appear. This information could be essential if scientists are to understand how and why humans share their diseases with animals.

The fallout may be predictable, the authors conclude, but the bigger problem is how little we know about diseases in wildlife. “We monitor SARS-CoV-2 more closely than any other virus on earth, so when a comeback occurs, we can catch it. It is still much more difficult to credibly assess the risk in other where we’re not able to operate with that much information,” says Carlson. As a result, it is difficult to gauge the severity of a return risk to human health or wildlife conservation, in particular for pathogens other than SARS-CoV-2.

“Long-term monitoring helps us establish baselines for wildlife health and disease prevalence, laying important foundations for future studies,” Fagre says. “If we watch closely, we can spot these cross-species transmission events much more quickly and act accordingly.”


Researchers detect first potential case of COVID-19 transmission between deer and humans


More information:
Assess the risk of transmission of pathogens from humans to wildlife for conservation and public health, Ecology Letters (2022). DOI: 10.1111/ele.14003

Provided by Georgetown University Medical Center


Quote: Researchers find that humans transmitted their diseases to wild animals nearly 100 times (2022, March 23) Retrieved April 30, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-03-humans-wild-animals- diseases.html

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