What you need to know:
- The researchers focused on four types of zoonotic pathogens: Filoviruses (such as Ebola), Sars Coronavirus 1 (causing Sars), Nipah virus, and Machupo virus.
- They identified 75 spillover events in 24 countries, resulting in more than 17,000 deaths.
A recently released study warns of a dramatic increase in animal-to-human infections by 2050, potentially resulting in 12 times more deaths compared to 2020.
This alarming trend is observed in four types of zoonotic diseases, which exhibit an “exponential rate” of growth, according to researchers from the US biotech company, Ginkgo Bioworks.
Kenya, like many other regions, is vulnerable to zoonotic diseases that can jump from animals to humans mainly because of the intersection between the two.
These infections typically occur through direct contact with animals, exposure to vectors like ticks or mosquitoes, contact with animal habitats, or consumption of contaminated food and water.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that there is a “likelihood” that the coronavirus was transmitted from bats to humans. However, some scientists have disputed this theory.
The study, published in BMJ Global Health, an open access, online journal, analysed nearly 60 years of epidemiological data focusing on more than 3,000 outbreaks, revealing a concerning pattern of increasing “spillover” epidemics.
The researchers focused on four types of zoonotic pathogens: Filoviruses (such as Ebola), Sars Coronavirus 1 (causing Sars), Nipah virus, and Machupo virus. They identified 75 spillover events in 24 countries, resulting in more than 17,000 deaths.
The analysis indicates that the number of spillover epidemics has been rising by almost five per cent annually, accompanied by an 8.7 per cent annual increase in reported deaths.
If this trend persists, the researchers predict a fourfold increase in spillover events and a twelvefold increase in deaths by 2050 compared to 2020.
While human-driven climate change is expected to contribute to the rise of zoonotic diseases, its specific impact on global health remains challenging to characterise.
The researchers emphasise the urgent need for action to address this growing risk to global health, calling for comprehensive measures to support pandemic preparedness.