4 diseases spilling over from animals could kill 12 times as many people by 2050

EMERYVILLE, Calif. — Four types of lethal diseases transmitted from animals to humans could cause 12 times as many deaths in the year 2050 as they did in 2020 if current trends continue, a new study warns. Scientists in California have observed that the number of zoonotic infections — meaning diseases that can jump from various animal species to people — is increasing at an exponential rate. Their study finds that over the past 60 years, zoonotic epidemics have become both larger in scale and more frequent.

The research team highlighted that out of various zoonotic diseases, four have been increasing at an alarming pace — Filoviruses (such as Ebola and Marburg virus), SARS Coronavirus 1, Nipah virus, and Machupo virus. These strains are contributing to a general trend of larger and more frequent spillover events.

“Climate and land-use changes are predicted to increase the frequency of zoonotic spillover events, which have been the cause of most modern epidemics. Characterizing historical trends in zoonotic spillover can provide insights into the expected frequency and severity of future epidemics, but historical epidemiological data remains largely fragmented and difficult to analyze,” the study authors from Ginkgo Bioworks write in the journal BMJ Global Health.

To address this issue, they utilized their extensive epidemiological database to identify trends in spillover events, which may illuminate future patterns. This database includes reports from the World Health Organization’s Disease Outbreak News, outbreaks caused by a viral pathogen resulting in 50 or more fatalities, and historically significant outbreaks like the 1918 and 1957 flu pandemics.

The researchers’ focus was on Filoviruses, SARS Coronavirus 1, Nipah virus, and Machupo virus (which causes Bolivian hemorrhagic fever) due to their significant risks to public health and potential to destabilize economies or political systems.

Coronavirus / COVID-19
Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

Analyzing over 3,150 outbreaks and epidemics from 1963 to 2019, the team examined trends in the number of outbreaks and resulting fatalities from these viruses. They identified 75 spillover events in 24 countries that caused a total of 17,232 deaths during the study period. Notably, Filoviruses were responsible for more than 15,700 deaths across 40 outbreaks, predominantly in Africa.

Excluding the COVID-19 pandemic, their analysis revealed that spillover events and deaths attributed to these four groups of viruses have been increasing annually by roughly five percent and nine percent, respectively, from 1963 to 2019.

“If these annual rates of increase continue, we would expect the analyzed pathogens to cause four times the number of spillover events and 12 times the number of deaths in 2050 than in 2020,” the team led by Dr. Amanda Jean Meadows writes.

The doctor cautions that these figures are likely conservative, given the strict inclusion criteria for the pathogens studied, which overlook advancements in surveillance and detection techniques, and the exclusion of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic from the analysis.

“Our evaluation of the historical evidence suggests that the series of recent epidemics sparked by zoonotic spillover are not an aberration or random cluster, but follow a multi-decade trend in which spillover-driven epidemics have become both larger and more frequent,” the team concludes.

“The ultimate package of measures to support global prevention, preparedness, and resilience is not yet clear. What is clear, however, from the historical trends, is that urgent action is needed to address a large and growing risk to global health.”

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South West News Service writer Stephen Beech contributed to this report.

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Comments

  1. The US Congress made it illegal to develop bioweapons in the USA so the programs were moved to China. China was paId by the US, millions of dollars to make COVID more deadly. Lab mice were no doubt used in the bioweapon development program. I don’t know but it appears to me to be lab mice not wild mice who developed the COVID variant. It looks like the illegal weapons development is still going on and was again released on the world.

  2. If our government would stop people like Fauchi from doing and funding “gain of function research”, making these diseases more infectious, this would be a non issue

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