West Nile virus, Lyme disease to increase due to extinction of species

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The disappearance of all species, from bacteria to mammals, represents a threat to human health because it increases the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases, according to a study by Bard College scientists.

Protecting biodiversity is more than fighting for the environment as a rich variety of animal and plant species in ecosystems helps prevent infectious diseases. The study is conducted by experts from the universities of Princeton, New Jersey and Cornell, New York and Bard College. It is published in the journal Nature.

Extinction of species will negatively effect on transmission of West Nile virus, Lyme disease and hantavirus

Experts say that animals, plants and microbes that tend to disappear when destroyed biodiversity are those that dampen the transmission of infectious diseases like West Nile virus, Lyme disease and hantavirus.


“We knew of specific cases in which declines in biodiversity increase the incidence of disease,” says Felicia Keesing, an ecologist at Bard College in Annandale, N.Y., and first author of the paper. “But we've learned that the pattern is much more general: biodiversity loss tends to increase pathogen transmission across a wide range of infectious disease systems.” She says this pattern holds true for various types of viruses and their hosts, regardless of the fact if they are humans, animals, or even plants. “When a clinical trial of a drug shows that it works,” says Keesing, “the trial is halted so the drug can be made available. In a similar way, the protective effect of biodiversity is clear enough that we need to implement policies to preserve it now.”

Keesing says their paper calls on the authorities to carry out a follow-up in the areas where large numbers of domesticated animals are being raised or fish farmed. “That would reduce the likelihood of an infectious disease jumping from wildlife to livestock, then to humans,” says Keesing.

The study concludes that it will take more than a village, an entire planet to keep the humans healthy. The diversity should thrive if humans are to stay healthy.

The paper also makes a call to the authorities to carry out a follow-up "more rigorous" areas where there are large numbers of domesticated animals, or farmed.

Reference: Bard College
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