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How do land-use changes affect the spread of diseases between animals and people?

June 03, 2020

Most new viruses and other pathogens that arise in humans are transmitted from other animals, as in the case of the virus that causes COVID-19. A recent review published in Mammal Review examines how changes in land-use--such as deforestation, urbanization, and conversion to agriculture--have affected such transmission.

The review found that land-use changes cause changes in the behavior of animals, which affect the emergence of diseases in humans from a variety of animals, including rodents, livestock, and other mammals. However, many hosts, pathogens and impacts of land-use changes other than urbanization have been under-studied.

The review's authors call for more research to help predict how new diseases emerge and spread in response to land-use changes.

"We highlight major gaps in our understanding of how land-use change affects the spread of diseases from mammals to humans in terms of how key hosts, like bats, are affected, and how important land-use changes, such as agriculture, impact wild mammals and their interaction with livestock," said co-author Orly Razgour, PhD, of the University of Exeter, in the UK. "There is an urgent need for more studies that link animal ecology and responses to land-use change with pathogen ecology and disease spread."
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Wiley

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