Potential hot spots include the Sahel, the Ethiopian Highlands, the Rift Valley, India, eastern China, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Researchers warned Thursday that climate change will drive animals to cooler regions, where their first encounters with other species will increase the risk of the new virus infecting humans.
There are currently at least 10,000 viruses “quietly circulating” in wild mammals that have the potential to cross into humans, mostly in the depths of tropical forests.
As rising temperatures forced those mammals to leave their native habitats, they would meet other species for the first time, generating at least 15,000 new instances of the virus among animals by 2070, according to a study published in the journal Nature. According to a study.
Study co-author Gregory Albery, a disease ecologist at Georgetown, said: “We have demonstrated a novel and potentially devastating mechanism for the emergence of disease that could threaten the health of animal populations in the future, which could lead to our would also have the greatest impact on health.” university.
“This work provides us with more indisputable evidence that the coming decades will not only be hot, but sickening as well,” Albery said.
The study, five years in the making, looked at 3,139 species of mammals, modeling how their movements would change under a range of global warming scenarios, then analyzed how viral transmission would be affected.
The researchers found that new contacts between different mammals would effectively double, with first encounters everywhere in the world, but particularly concentrated in tropical Africa and Southeast Asia.
danger of bats
According to the research, global warming will cause those first contacts to occur in more populated areas, where people are “likely to be vulnerable, and some viruses will be able to spread globally from any of these population centers”.
Potential hot spots include the Sahel, the Ethiopian Highlands and the Rift Valley, India, eastern China, Indonesia, the Philippines and some European population centers, the study found.
The research was completed weeks before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but emphasized the unique threat posed by bats, in which COVID-19 is believed to have first emerged. As the only mammal that can fly, bats can travel far greater distances than their land-bound brethren, spreading disease as they go.
Bats are believed to have already been moving, and the study found that they accounted for a large majority of possible first encounters with other mammals, mostly in Southeast Asia.
Even if the world massively and quickly reduces its greenhouse gas emissions—a scenario that still seems far-fetched—it can’t help but account for this problem.
Modeling showed that the mildest climate change scenarios could lead to more cross-species transmission than the worst-case scenarios, as slower warming gives the animals more time to travel.
The researchers also sought to find out when the first encounters between the species might have begun, hoping that it would happen at the end of this century.
But “surprisingly” their projections found that the earliest contacts would occur between 2011 and 2040, increasing steadily from there.
“It is happening. It is not preventable even in the best-case scenarios of climate change, and we need to take measures to build health infrastructure to protect animal and human populations,” Albery said.
The researchers emphasized that while they focused on mammals, other animals may have harbored zoonotic viruses — the name of the virus that jumps from animals to humans.
He called for further research into the threat posed by birds, amphibians and even marine mammals, as melting sea ice makes them more mingled.
Study co-author Colin Carlson, a global change biologist who is also in Georgetown, said climate change is “creating myriad hot spots of future zoonotic risk – or current zoonotic risk – in our backyards”.
“We have to accept that climate change is going to be the biggest upstream driver of disease emergence, and we have to build health systems ready for that,” Carlson said.