“How did this happen? And could it happen again?”
Source: These Scientists Saw COVID-19 Coming. Now They’re Trying to Stop the Next Pandemic Before It Starts. – Mother Jones
Sixty percent of new infectious diseases—diseases that, like COVID-19, have never before reached humans—originate in domesticated animals and wildlife, often bats, rodents, or non-human primates. Scientists estimate that there are as many as 800,000 of these so-called zoonotic viruses lurking in the natural world that could infect humans. The animals carrying these viruses often don’t get sick; instead, they serve as “reservoirs,” amassing pathogens as they eat, sleep, and socialize. It’s a good deal for the viruses: They get a free ride, while they wait for a chance to make a cross-species leap.
The problem is that those deadly leaps are becoming more common. Population growth and environmental and habitat destruction are bringing humans into more frequent contact with certain species—and the viruses that they carry.
Ensia is a solutions-focused nonprofit media outlet reporting on our changing planet. Published by the Institute on the Environment.
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The research community is reacting with alarm and anger to the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH’s) abrupt and unusual termination of a grant supporting research in China on how coronaviruses—such as the one causing the current pandemic—move from bats to humans. The agency axed the grant last week, after conservative U.S. politicians and media repeatedly suggested—without evidence—that the pandemic severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, that employs a Chinese virologist who had been receiving funding from the grant. The termination, which some analysts believe might violate regulations governing NIH, also came 7 days after President Donald Trump, asked about the project at a press conference, said: “We will end that grant very quickly.”
Source: NIH’s axing of bat coronavirus grant a ‘horrible precedent’ and might break rules, critics say | Science | AAAS
“It’s a mix of biodiversity, but one that was created by people, not nature,” Keesing says. “We create a mix of species that don’t naturally occur together, and then it’s kind of like running an uncontrolled experiment. This virus jumps to that species.” Maybe that’s when a pathogen that we didn’t know about, that hadn’t previously made anyone sick (to our knowledge), suddenly becomes virulent and infects humans. “It was only when we did that to biodiversity that that virus became dangerous.” These types of markets pose one of the clearest threats to animal and human health, but they’re not the only threat. A greater risk is posed by the complex mix of habitat loss, population declines in wild species, and population increases among livestock and domesticated animals, invasive species and other more adaptable forms of wildlife.
Source: Where Pandemics Come From — and How to Stop Them • The Revelator
It took roughly a year after the first human infection with MERS-CoV was announced out of Saudi Arabia for dromedary camels to be identified as a host species for the MERS coronavirus (see 2013’s The Lancet Camels Found With Antibodies To MERS-CoV-Like Virus). While bats are believed to be the primary host reservoir for MERS, SARS, and an array of other novel pathogens (see Curr. Opinion Virology: Viruses In Bats & Potential Spillover To Animals And Humans), the hunt continues for other susceptible species where these viruses may reside.
Source: Avian Flu Diary: Emerg. Microbe & Inf: MERS Infection In Non-Camelid Domestic Mammals
NH: There had been a significant increase in date tree cultivation in Saudi Arabia to serve increased worldwide demand for dates. That increase led naturally to an increase in the bat population and the possibilities of a new variant of disease to be passed on to animals and humans.
New viruses had all the building blocks of the human virus, and lab exeriments found that some are equipped with the same capacity to enter human cells.
Source: Bat cave study finds new clues about SARS virus origin
“Bats get out of control and produce more viruses when humans create more fruit plantations – there has been a huge increase in date fruit production in Saudia Arabia – home of the MERS outbreak.”
The study shows that bats carry a significantly higher proportion of viruses able to infect people than any other group of mammals; and it identifies the species and geographic regions on the planet with the highest number of yet-to-be discovered, or ‘missing’, viruses likely to infect people. This work provides a new way to predict where and how we should work to identify and pre-empt the next potential viral pandemic before it emerges.
Source: Inoreader – EID Journal: A New Bat-HKU2–like Coronavirus in Swine, China, 2017
Taken together, the findings suggest that high contact rates among bats enable them to acquire and spread coronaviruses, the authors concluded.
Source: Researchers find novel bat coronaviruses, akin to MERS, SARS | CIDRAP
David Hayman of Massey University notes, “The model allows us to move beyond our own biases and find patterns in the data that only a machine can. Instead of predicting where Ebola and other filovirus outbreaks will occur by looking at the last spillover event, it forecasts risk based on the intrinsic traits of filovirus-positive bat species.”Those traits include: early maturity, having more than one pup per year (most bats only have one), offspring that are large at birth, and a tendency to live in large groups. Compared to other bats, filovirus-positive species also have broader geographic ranges that overlap with a higher diversity of mammal species per square kilometer.When data on the world’s 1116 bat species were searched using this filovirus-positive bat profile, machine learning identified new potential hosts based on their traits. Once mapped, these bats were more widely distributed than the team expected. While many potential bat hosts are found in sub-Saharan Africa, they also range across Southeast Asia and Central and South America.Han explains, “Our results corroborate studies in Africa that have predicted the environmental niche of Ebola spans the primary tropical rainforest. But in a departure from past research, we identified several hotspots in Southeast Asia where up to 26 potential reservoir species overlap, notably in Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Vietnam, and northeast India.”John Drake of the University of Georgia concludes, “Maps generated by the algorithm can help guide targeted surveillance and virus discovery projects. We suspect there may be other filoviruses waiting to be found. An outstanding question for future work is to investigate why there are so few filovirus spillover events reported for humans and wildlife in Southeast Asia compared to equatorial Africa.”
Source: Artificial intelligence reveals undiscovered bat carriers of Ebola and other filoviruses | Science Codex
The worst is yet to come: New virus even deadlier than Ebola, Zika may emerge, warn Swiss scientists Andre Mitchell 23 March 2016 Email Print More Sharing Services Share (Wikipedia) Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that have a halo, or crown-like (corona) appearance when viewed under an electron microscope. The coronavirus is now recognised as the etiologic agent of the 2003 SARS outbreak. In 2014, the Ebola virus outbreak killed more than 11,000 people in Africa. This year, the Zika virus is currently affecting millions of people and even unborn children in South America, prompting the declaration of a public health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO). If you think you’ve seen the worst in terms of deadly diseases, think again. In a study published last week in the journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” scientists from Switzerland warned that a deadlier virus may emerge, causing more illnesses and deaths. According to a report on WND.com, the Swiss scientists described the virus as something similar to the one which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS, which killed over 700 people during an outbreak in southern China from November 2002 to July 2003. The virus, which is called “WIV1-CoV,” may come from zoonotic sources, meaning it may be transmitted from animals to human beings. It is likely to exhibit flu-like symptoms which will eventually escalate into pneumonia. “Focusing on the SARS-like viruses, the results indicate that the WIV1-coronavirus (CoV) cluster has the ability to directly infect and may undergo limited transmission in human populations,” the researchers wrote in their study. Lead researcher Dr. Vineet Menachery of Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill explained that the transmission of this new virus to humans is not yet a certainty, but if it happens, the scenario is discouraging. “This virus may never jump to humans, but if it does, WIV1-CoV has the potential to seed a new outbreak with significant consequences for both public health and the global economy,” the lead scientist explained.
Source: The worst is yet to come: New virus even deadlier than Ebola, Zika may emerge, warn Swiss scientists | Christian News on Christian Today