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Global Shifts in Mammalian Population Trends Reveal Key Predictors of Virus Spillover Risk

Global shifts in mammalian population trends reveal key predictors of virus spillover risk

Christine K. Johnson, Peta L. Hitchens, Pranav S. Pandit, Julie Rushmore, Tierra Smiley Evans, Cristin C.W. Young and Megan M. Doyle

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Media Fact Sheet

A PREDICT-funded analysis of zoonotic viruses and their mammalian hosts indicates that bats, non-human primates, and domesticated animals harbor the most zoonotic viruses.  

Key Findings 

  • Species that are (1) wide-spread and in high abundance and (2) species with a threatened conservation status due to loss of habitat or anthropogenic exploitation carry the most zoonotic viruses 
  • An increase in animal-human interactions through practices such as habitat alteration and wildlife hunting/trade has likely facilitated zoonotic disease transmission from these taxa 
  • Human interaction with wildlife has serious public health implications on a global scale 
  • Disease emergence and the risk of a pandemic is directly connected to habitat loss, human exploitation of wildlife, and species extinction 

Informing Action 

Understanding the relationship between human activity and disease emergence (as shown in this study) helps inform policies and interventions designed to reduce the risk of viral spillover and prevent the next pandemic. Results from studies like this as well as the current COVID-19 pandemic can and should inform future public policy and shift thinking from preparedness to prevention. 

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