Bugs flee beasts for human beings
Diseases accelerating spread to people jumping species at rate of 1 per year
Feb. 24, 2006. 01:00 AM
SCIENCE REPORTER, TORONTO STAR
ST. LOUIS —HIV/AIDS, West Nile, SARS, Ebola, variant CJD, monkeypox and avian flu.
That’s just a partial roll call of the diseases that humans have acquired from animals over the last three decades. A full list just compiled reveals that new infectious diseases have been jumping the species barrier at the exceptional rate of one per year.
Experts at a scientific conference here cautioned that conditions are ripe for the trend to continue, posing major problems for public health authorities. They also said that the medical community had been slow to recognize the threat.
“When we started this project five years ago, no one had even bothered to count them,” Mark Woolhouse, a professor of epidemiology, told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which concluded earlier this week.
In the first survey of its kind, Woolhouse and colleagues at the University of Edinburgh counted more than 1,400 pathogens that can cause disease in humans, with at least 800 having crossed the species barrier from animals.