Most new viruses and other pathogens that arise in humans are transmitted from other animals, as in the case of the virus that causes COVID-19. A recent review published in Mammal Review examines how changes in land-use--such as deforestation, urbanization, and conversion to agriculture--have affected such transmission.
The review found that land-use changes cause changes in the behavior of animals, which affect the emergence of diseases in humans from a variety of animals, including rodents, livestock, and other mammals. However, many hosts, pathogens and impacts of land-use changes other than urbanization have been under-studied.
The review's authors call for more research to help predict how new diseases emerge and spread in response to land-use changes.
"We highlight major gaps in our understanding of how land-use change affects the spread of diseases from mammals to humans in terms of how key hosts, like bats, are affected, and how important land-use changes, such as agriculture, impact wild mammals and their interaction with livestock," said co-author Orly Razgour, PhD, of the University of Exeter, in the UK. "There is an urgent need for more studies that link animal ecology and responses to land-use change with pathogen ecology and disease spread."