Animal-to-human diseases ‘could kill 12 times as many people by 2050’

Researchers called for ‘urgent action’ to address increased risk of spread of disease due to climate change and deforestation

Jabed Ahmed
Friday 03 November 2023 03:56 GMT
Comments
The study looked at more than 3,150 outbreaks between 1963 and 2019, identifying 75 spillover events in 24 countries.
The study looked at more than 3,150 outbreaks between 1963 and 2019, identifying 75 spillover events in 24 countries. (PA)

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Illnesses transmitted from animals to humans could kill 12 times as many people in 2050 than they did in 2020, researchers have warned.

Epidemics caused by zoonotic diseases – also known as spillovers – could be more frequent in the future due to climate change and deforestation, experts from US biotech company Ginkgo Bioworks warned.

They called for “urgent action” to address the large risk to global health caused by such diseases.

Historical trends in viral pathogens such as the Ebola virus, Marburg virus, SARS Coronavirus 1, Nipah virus and Machupo virus were analysed by the team of researchers, though the study did not include Covid-19.

The study looked at more than 3,150 outbreaks between 1963 and 2019, identifying 75 spillover events in 24 countries.

The database covered epidemics reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), outbreaks occurring since 1963 that killed 50 or more people and historically significant events including the flu pandemics of 1918 and 1957.

The events analysed caused 17,232 deaths, with 15,771 caused by filoviruses and occurring mostly in Africa.

Researchers said epidemics have been increasing by almost 5 per cent every year between 1963 and 2019, with deaths up by 9 per cent.

“If these annual rates of increase continue, we would expect the analysed pathogens to cause four times the number of spillover events and 12 times the number of deaths in 2050 than in 2020,” they warned.

Researchers also suggested the figures were likely to be an underestimate due to the strict inclusion criteria for the pathogens in the analysis and the exclusion of Covid-19.

They said the evaluation of evidence suggested recent epidemics sparked by zoonotic spillovers “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 added that “urgent action is needed to address a large and growing risk to global health”.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in