Ignorance of the transmission of deadly diseases between wildlife and livestock and humans is putting lives at risk, Australian scientists say.
They point to recent virus outbreaks of wildlife origin, such as Hendra virus in Australia, Ebola virus in West Africa, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus in the Arabian Peninsula, as evidence for the need for more research focusing on the wildlife-livestock interface.
“Oftentimes we don’t prioritise animal health until it impacts on human health, which means we miss the opportunity to manage diseases at the source,” said co-author Dr Siobhan Mor from the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney.
“In the case of emerging diseases, we tend to react to large outbreaks of disease in humans, rather than preventing or managing the infection in animals, likely because we still don’t know a lot about the role of these microbes in the ecology of wildlife and livestock disease.”
The researchers study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), found that just ten diseases account for around 50 per cent of all published knowledge on diseases at the wildlife-livestock interface.
It is based on an analysis of almost 16,000 publications spanning the last century.
“We know far less about the range of diseases that impact on animal health and welfare. This is particularly true for wildlife, which remains very poorly funded,” said co-author Dr Anke Wiethoelter.
“Paradoxically, this also means we know less about the diseases that could be a precursor to infectious diseases in humans.”
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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