Frontiers Pub. Health: The Zoonotic Threat From Four Types Of Respiratory Viruses


Zoonotic diseases – those which originated in or are normally hosted by non-human species – but can infect humans – have been with us for many thousands of years. But their ability to spread, and opportunities to adapt to humans, likely only really took off as humans began to cluster together in communities.

  • Tuberculosis probably jumped to humans when we began to domesticate goats and cattle 5000 years ago.
  • Measles appears to have evolved from canine distemper and/or the Rinderpest virus of cattle.
  • And Influenza, as most of you know, is native to aquatic birds.

The list of zoonotic diseases is long and continues to expand, and includes such notable nasties as SARS, MERS, Babesiosis, Borrelia (Lyme), Nipah, HIV, Plague, Rabies, Hendra, Malaria, Dengue, Zika, Hantavirus, Ebola, Bartonella, Leptospirosis, Q-Fever, several flavors of avian flu and many, many others.

Over the years we’ve looked at this growing trend, which was largely predicted back in the mid 1990s by noted anthropologist and researcher George Armelagos of Emory University (see The Third Epidemiological Transition (Revisited)). 

Around the same time (1995), the CDC began publishing the EID Journal, a highly respected peer-reviewed journal on emerging pathogenic threats.  Today emerging disease threats, and neglected tropical diseases, are a hot topic in scores of respected journals.

In 2014, in Emerging zoonotic viral diseases  L.-F. Wang (1, 2) * & G. Crameri wrote:

The last 30 years have seen a rise in emerging infectious diseases in humans and of these over 70% are zoonotic (2, 3). Zoonotic infections are not new. They have always featured among the wide range of human diseases and most, e.g. anthrax, tuberculosis, plague, yellow fever and influenza, have come from domestic animals, poultry and livestock.

However, with changes in the environment, human behaviour and habitat, increasingly these infections are emerging from wildlife species.

While the public health burden from non-respiratory diseases (i.e. Dengue, Zika, Lyme, Malaria, rabies, Ebola, etc.) is very high, respiratory viruses – due to their ability to spread quickly, and sometimes even globally – are among the most concerning.  

We’ve an excellent mini-review of zoonotic respiratory disease threats, published earlier this month in Frontiers In Public Health, that looks four specific types of emerging or re-emerging threats; influenza viruses, coronaviruses, enteroviruses (EVs), and adenoviruses (Ads).

Not a complete list, of course.  But these four groups are viewed as having particularly good growth prospects.

I’ve only included a few excerpts, so follow the link to read the full article.

A Mini Review of the Zoonotic Threat Potential of Influenza Viruses, Coronaviruses, Adenoviruses, and Enteroviruses 

Emily S. Bailey1,2*, Jane K. Fieldhouse1,2, Jessica Y. Choi1,2 and Gregory C. Gray1,2,3,4 

1Duke Global Health Institute, Duke University, Durham, NC, United States
2Division of Infectious Diseases, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, NC, United States
3Global Health Research Center, Duke-Kunshan University, Kunshan, China
4Emerging Infectious Diseases Program, Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore

During the last two decades, scientists have grown increasingly aware that viruses are emerging from the human–animal interface. In particular, respiratory infections are problematic; in early 2003, World Health Organization issued a worldwide alert for a previously unrecognized illness that was subsequently found to be caused by a novel coronavirus [severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus]. 

In addition to SARS, other respiratory pathogens have also emerged recently, contributing to the high burden of respiratory tract infection-related morbidity and mortality. Among the recently emerged respiratory pathogens are influenza viruses, coronaviruses, enteroviruses, and adenoviruses.

As the genesis of these emerging viruses is not well understood and their detection normally occurs after they have crossed over and adapted to man, ideally, strategies for such novel virus detection should include intensive surveillance at the human–animal interface, particularly if one believes the paradigm that many novel emerging zoonotic viruses first circulate in animal populations and occasionally infect man before they fully adapt to man; early detection at the human–animal interface will provide earlier warning. Here, we review recent emerging virus treats for these four groups of viruses. 


During the last two decades, scientists have grown increasingly aware that viruses are emerging from the human–animal interface. In order to combat this increasingly complex problem, the One Health approach or initiative has been proposed as a way of working across disciplines to incorporate human, animal, and environmental health. Of particular concern are emerging respiratory virus infections; in a recent seminar given by the National Institute of Health on emerging and re-emerging pathogens, nearly 18% were respiratory viruses (1).

Among the recently emerged respiratory pathogens contributing to the high burden of respiratory tract infection-related morbidity and mortality, displayed graphically in Figure 1, are influenza viruses, coronaviruses, enteroviruses (EVs), and adenoviruses (Ads). In this report, we summarize the emerging threat characteristics of these four groups of viruses.

(Continue . . . )