Study Shows Where New Diseases May Arise

Malcolm Ritter, AP, February 20, 2008

NEW YORK (AP)—New infectious diseases have been appearing more often, says a study that suggests “hot spots” where the next new germs are most likely to appear. “We need to be out there in the hot spot regions looking for the next HIV,” said study co-author Peter Daszak.

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Experts called it the most thoroughly documented report yet to show a past increase in new infectious diseases and to predict where they might appear next.

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Decade-by-decade, such incidents grew steadily from 25 in the 1940s to 98 in the 1990s, except for a spike of 103 during the 1980s.

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The researchers said the highest risk areas are in parts of east Asia, Central America and South America, the Indian subcontinent, Africa, western Europe and some population centers of North America. That’s because the historical analysis had found the risk of such diseases goes up with factors like high population density and diversity of wildlife, the researchers said.

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[Editor’s Note: The full text can be read or downloaded as a PDF document be read here. Payment is required. The abstract appears below.]


Nature 451, 990-993 (21 February 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature06536; Received 2 August 2007; Accepted 11 December 2007

Kate E. Jones1, Nikkita G. Patel2, Marc A. Levy3, Adam Storeygard3,5, Deborah Balk3,5, John L. Gittleman4 & Peter Daszak2

1  Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regents Park, London NW1 4RY, UK

2  Consortium for Conservation Medicine, Wildlife Trust, 460 West 34th Street, 17th Floor, New York, New York 10001, USA

3  Center for International Earth Science Information Network, Earth Institute, Columbia University, 61 Route 9W, Palisades, New York 10964, USA

4  Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA

5  Present addresses: Department of Economics, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA (A.S.); School of Public Affairs, Baruch College, City University of New York, 1 Bernard Baruch Way, Box D-0901, New York, New York 10010, USA (D.B.).

Correspondence to: Peter Daszak2 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to P.D. (Email: [email protected]).

Emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are a significant burden on global economies and public health1, 2, 3. Their emergence is thought to be driven largely by socio-economic, environmental and ecological factors1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, but no comparative study has explicitly analysed these linkages to understand global temporal and spatial patterns of EIDs. Here we analyse a database of 335 EID ‘events’ (origins of EIDs) between 1940 and 2004, and demonstrate non-random global patterns. EID events have risen significantly over time after controlling for reporting bias, with their peak incidence (in the 1980s) concomitant with the HIV pandemic. EID events are dominated by zoonoses (60.3% of EIDs): the majority of these (71.8%) originate in wildlife (for example, severe acute respiratory virus, Ebola virus), and are increasing significantly over time. We find that 54.3% of EID events are caused by bacteria or rickettsia, reflecting a large number of drug-resistant microbes in our database. Our results confirm that EID origins are significantly correlated with socio-economic, environmental and ecological factors, and provide a basis for identifying regions where new EIDs are most likely to originate (emerging disease ‘hotspots’). They also reveal a substantial risk of wildlife zoonotic and vector-borne EIDs originating at lower latitudes where reporting effort is low. We conclude that global resources to counter disease emergence are poorly allocated, with the majority of the scientific and surveillance effort focused on countries from where the next important EID is least likely to originate.

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