Hunting, farming and the global move of people to cities has led to massive declines in biodiversity and increased the risk of dangerous viruses like Covid-19 spilling over from animals to humans, a major study has concluded.
In a paper that suggests the underlying cause of the present pandemic is likely to be increased human contact with wildlife, scientists from Australia and the US traced which animals were most likely to share pathogens with humans.
Taking 142 viruses known to have been transmitted from animals to humans over many years, they matched them to the IUCN’s red list of threatened species.
Domesticated animals like cattle, sheep, dogs and goats shared the highest number of viruses with humans, with eight times more animal-borne viruses than wild mammal species.
Wild animals that have adapted well to human-dominated environments also share more viruses with people. Rodents, bats and primates – which often live among people, and close to houses and farms – together were implicated as hosts for nearly 75% of all viruses. Bats alone have been linked to diseases like Sars, Nipah, Marburg and Ebola. Read more…