Climatic changes have been causing invasive species to spread rapidly, seeking new hosts in search of a favorable climate for themselves. A recent study shows that the threat of infectious viruses, like the West Nile virus or Ebola is increasing as the temperatures of the water, and land continues to rise. Scientists have studied the patterns of spread of new pathogens from one host to other both in the tropical, and the Arctic areas. The results prove that the threat is increasing in proportion to the change of climate.
The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B has published an article recently that produces the work of two researchers. They are the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Daniel Brooks and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service’s zoologist, Eric Hoberg. While Brooks is engaged with the University’s Laboratory of Parasitological department, Hoberg is a zoologist with the U.S. National Parasite Collection.
Brooks and Hoberg have spent the last three decades studying the Arctic and the tropical areas that have been affected by global warming. They claim that the assumption that parasites do not change hosts easily is false and needs rectification. They suggest that pathogens are genetically equipped to acquire new hosts quickly and easily. This has left the world at an increased potential threat of unknown and new pathogen attacks. Since the new hosts are unable to fight the new pathogens, they are at an increased danger as compared to their previous hosts.
Brooks explained that in Costa Rica, the parasites that infected the capuchin and spider monkeys earlier are now attacking howler monkeys. The shift of host was easy and quick for the parasites. He also cited the infections of the muskoxen, which are found in the north. The attacking lungworms were earlier known to attack caribou further south.
Brooks and Hoberg have raised the alarm to call together veterinary health communities, public health officials, and museum biologists to work collaboratively.
Source: University of Nebraska-Lincoln