The changing climate has forced mammals to move into new areas, increasing the chances for viruses to move between species even humans. In 2070, if global temperatures continue to rise as they are predicted it could result in around 15,000 more species-crossing “viral sharing events,” according to new research released today in Nature. Nature.
Of the approximately 10,000 viruses that are found in mammals that have the potential of infecting humans, the majority are still circulating only among wild animals. The concern is that more of those virus species may eventually make it to humans, the possibility of sparking an epidemic of health similar to covid-19, a pandemic.
“Ultimately, this work provides us with more incontrovertible evidence that the coming decades will not only be hotter but sicker,” “Gregory Albery is a disease ecologist from Georgetown University and co-lead author of the study, stated during a conference call with journalists.
As temperatures increase across the globe the species that are threatened relocate because the climate they’re accustomed to is changing. Some may find that areas which were once considered unhospitable or perhaps not warm enough — are now more appealing. While traveling in their journey, pathogens are brought along with them. Essentially, viruses have more hosts to which they can travel for long distances. They can therefore travel to areas and species that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to previously.
“Even now, this process has likely been taking place, mostly unobserved and below the surface, and we need to start looking for it,” Albery explained.
If a virus is passed when a virus spreads from one animal to another it’s referred to as a “spread over” or ” spillover” incident. If spillover happens between two species, a human and an animal living thing, then an infection could develop. The COVID-19 virus is a zoonotic infection meaning it can transfer between humans and animals. There is evidence that the coronavirus novel was developed in bats. It may have ascended to at most another animal before reaching humans.
The authors of the latest study examined possible changes to the geographic distributions of more than 3000 mammal species in the face of warming temperatures. They also considered how land use could be affected, such as by urban development and deforestation.
It is possible to have more than 300,000 “first encounters” between different species of animals in the future when there are 2 degrees global warming over pre-industrial levels, the study indicates. The majority of these encounters would likely take place in the tropical regions of Asia as well as Africa. It could also lead to 15,000 transmission events were at the very least, one virus that is novel shifts from one species to the next. The majority of the anticipated viral sharing is involving bats. They are the only mammals in mammals due to their ability to move from continent to continent.
Researchers aren’t the frequency at which viruses could later cross over to humans. Not every virus that makes its way from an animal to human causes an outbreak. But Albery stated on the conference call in which a virus flies into a new species it may create conditions that could allow the virus to evolve into one that is “particularly well suited or well placed to make the jump into humans.”
Consider the raccoons who thrive in marshes, forests suburban areas, as well as city centers. If the raccoons with their innate ability suddenly develop the new virus, they could be more likely to spread the virus into the areas where humans reside. The virus has already made a jump from a different kind of species to become a raccoon then it has proven that it’s capable of jumping between species.
The latest paper suggests that these trends are already in motion and will become a major issue even in the most favorable scenarios for the future of climate change. We’re getting close to achieving the two-degree threshold. The world has already warmed more than one degree.
The COVID-19 epidemic was discovered just after the research was concluded The authors claim that this highlights the necessity to be prepared for a spreading. “We have to take that seriously as a real-time threat,” Georgetown University biologist Colin Carlson, another lead writer of the study stated on the conference call. “We need to recognize that climate change is likely to be the most significant downstream driver for the emergence of diseases. We must build healthcare systems prepared to deal with that.”
This involves combining the surveillance of new viruses and studies that show how species’ geographical areas are changing, the authors write. This is part of a larger movement to accept a new concept known as “One Health” which recognizes how the well-being of people, animals, and the natural environment are interconnected.