Scientists discover a new way to predict the transmission of diseases in wildlife to humans, and vice versa

Over the past three decades, the incidence of humans with new animal diseases has gradually increased.

Viruses, such as the worldwide coronavirus pandemic and the current monkeypox epidemic, have highlighted the critical need for disease ecological technologies that can predict when and where an outbreak will occur.

New approach predicts disease transmission

girl petting a dog

(Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash)

An associate professor at the University of South Florida contributed to the development of a system that predicts transmission of disease from animals to humans, from one type of wildlife to another, and who is at risk of infection, according to science daily.

The technology is based on machine learning and detects the influence of factors such as geography and climate on recognized diseases.

The algorithm can detect community hotspots at risk of infection on both global and local scales using only small amounts of information.

The primary goal of the study is to create this tool for preventative action, according to co-principal investigator Diego Santiago-Alarcon, associate professor of integrative biology at the University of South Florida.

It is difficult to develop an all-purpose model that can be used to predict infection across all parasite systems, but this research contributes to this goal.

Santiago-Alarcon screened three host pathogenic systems—avian malaria, West Nile virus infected birds, and MERS infected bats—with the help of researchers from Mexico’s University of Veracruzana and the Institute of Ecology to test the reliability and accuracy of the models generated by the methodology.

The researchers discovered that in each of the three systems, the species most affected were not always the ones most likely to develop disease.

It was crucial to identify important characteristics, such as ecology and evolutionary links, in order to correctly locate hosts at increased risk of infection.

The researchers found host species not previously reported as affected by the parasite under study by combining geographic, ecological, and phylogenetic characteristics, giving a technique to detect endangered species and ultimately reduce disease risk.

According to Santiago-Alarcón, “We are certain that this technique works and that it can be used for a wide variety of pathogen host systems.” “We are currently entering a period of development and refining,” he added.

The results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that the technique may generate robust global predictions for the pathogen host systems examined even with limited information.

This new technology will aid in the direction of infectious disease surveillance and field initiatives, providing a cost-effective way to better determine where to allocate rare disease resources.

It is difficult to predict which pathogen will cause the next medical or veterinary illness, but it is vital.

As the rate of human impact on natural conditions grows, the chance of developing new diseases increases.

Read also: Cross-species infection: an exploration of deadly diseases acquired through animal-to-human transmission

Zoonoses

People earn a lot from animals. Many individuals have daily interactions with animals, both at home and away from home, she states Center for Disease Control.

Animals provide humans all over the world with food, fiber, livelihoods, travel, sports, friendship and education.

Millions of American families have one or more pets. We may come into contact with animals in urban or rural areas, when traveling, attending animal shows, or participating in outdoor activities.

On the other hand, animals can carry dangerous bacteria that can be transmitted to humans and cause disease; These diseases are known as zoonoses or zoonotic diseases.

Zoonotic diseases are caused by pathogenic bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi.

These viruses may cause a wide range of diseases in humans and animals, from moderate to severe illness and even death.

Depending on the zoonotic disease, animals may appear healthy even though they harbor germs that could make people sick.

How are germs transmitted between humans and animals?

Contact with an infected animal’s saliva, blood, urine, mucus, droppings, or other bodily fluids. Examples include petting or touching animals, as well as bites or scratches.

Contact with areas where animals live and roam, as well as items or surfaces infested with germs. Examples include aquarium tank water, pet houses, poultry cages, sheds, plants, and soil, as well as pet food and water bowls.

What steps can you take to protect yourself and your family from zoonoses?

Keep your hands clean. Washing your hands after being near animals, even if you haven’t touched any of them, is one of the most important precautions you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

Learn basic steps you can take to keep your pets safe. Prevent mosquito bites, ticks and fleas.

Learn how to handle food safely, whether it’s for yourself, your family, your pet, or other animals.

Related articles: Mink workers infected with the Corona virus are the first known cases of human-animal transmission

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