Ecological Origins of Novel Human Pathogens

  title={Ecological Origins of Novel Human Pathogens},
  author={Mark E. J. Woolhouse and Eleanor R Gaunt},
  journal={Critical Reviews in Microbiology},
  pages={231 - 242}
A systematic literature survey suggests that there are 1399 species of human pathogen. Of these, 87 were first reported in humans in the years since 1980. The new species are disproportionately viruses, have a global distribution, and are mostly associated with animal reservoirs. Their emergence is often driven by ecological changes, especially with how human populations interact with animal reservoirs. Here, we review the process of pathogen emergence over both ecological and evolutionary time… 

Detecting the emergence of novel, zoonotic viruses pathogenic to humans

  • R. Rosenberg
  • Biology, Medicine
    Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences
  • 2014
An analysis of virus discovery indicates that the small number of novel viruses discovered annually is an artifact of inadequate surveillance in tropical and subtropical countries, where even established endemic pathogens are often misdiagnosed.

Viral zoonotic risk is homogenous among taxonomic orders of mammalian and avian reservoir hosts

It is shown that the proportion of viruses that infect humans varies minimally across reservoir taxonomic orders, which supports a host-neutral explanation for observed variation in the number of zoonoses among animal groups, such that traits of animal orders are unlikely to produce viruses that disproportionately threaten humans.

Human-Wildlife Contact and Emerging Infectious Diseases

This chapter uses a series of case studies involving SARS, HIV, Nipah virus, Lyme disease, malaria, and Ebola to exemplify how various anthropogenic factors have facilitated pathogen transmission between human and nonhuman animal populations.

Synanthropy of Wild Mammals as a Determinant of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Asian–Australasian Region

It is found that synanthropic wildlife hosts are approximately 15 times more likely than other wildlife in this region to be the source of emerging infectious diseases, and this association is essentially independent of the taxonomy of the species.


A simplifying framework reducing the categories of drivers of emergence, based on the theory of island biogeography is presented, which may help to identify the animal species that will become the source of a newly emerging infectious disease.

Spillover and pandemic properties of zoonotic viruses with high host plasticity

The animal hosts and transmission mechanisms involved in spillover of zoonotic viruses to date are examined, and it is found that viruses with high host plasticity were more likely to amplify viral spillover by secondary human-to-human transmission and have broader geographic spread.

The phylogenetic range of bacterial and viral pathogens of vertebrates

The largest manually compiled host-pathogen association database, covering 2,595 bacteria and viruses infecting 2,656 vertebrate hosts, is reported, suggesting that host phylogenetic similarity is the primary factor for host-switching in pathogens.

Human viruses: discovery and emergence

Extrapolation of the discovery curve suggests that there is still a substantial pool of undiscovered human virus species, although an apparent slow-down in the rate of discovery of species from different families may indicate bounds to the potential range of diversity.

How Does Biodiversity Influence the Ecology of Infectious Disease?

It is considered that the consequences of the loss of species biodiversity on infectious diseases is still largely unknown, notably due to the lack of knowledge on the dynamics of host-pathogen relationships, especially at the population and at the community level.

Evolutionary ecology of virus emergence

  • J. Dennehy
  • Biology
    Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
  • 2017
It is argued that, while virus acquisition of the ability to infect new hosts is not difficult, limited evolutionary trajectories to sustained virus between‐host transmission and the combined effects of mutational meltdown, bottlenecking, demographic stochasticity, density dependence, and genetic erosion in ecological sinks limit most emergence events to dead‐end spillover infections.



Emerging pathogens: the epidemiology and evolution of species jumps

Population Biology of Multihost Pathogens

The majority of pathogens, including many of medical and veterinary importance, can infect more than one species of host, and factors that predispose pathogens to generalism include high levels of genetic diversity and abundant opportunities for cross-species transmission.

Population biology of emerging and re-emerging pathogens.

Origins of major human infectious diseases

An initiative to resolve disputed origins of major diseases, and a global early warning system to monitor pathogens infecting individuals exposed to wild animals are proposed.

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It is shown that an increase in R0, even when insufficient to generate an epidemic, nonetheless increases the number of subsequently infected individuals and subsequent disease emergence can increase markedly.

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This study represents the first quantitative analysis identifying risk factors for human disease emergence, with protozoa and viruses particularly likely to emerge, and helminths particularly unlikely to do so, irrespective of their zoonotic status.

A Veterinary Twist on Pathogen Biology

This article aims to provide some examples that illustrate how veterinary diseases (focusing on viral diseases in particular) have provided novel comparative and biological platforms.

Diseases of humans and their domestic mammals: pathogen characteristics, host range and the risk of emergence.

A database of disease-causing pathogens of humans and domestic mammals was constructed and it was found that helminths and fungi were relatively unlikely to emerge whereas viruses, particularly RNA viruses, were highly likely to emerge.

Viral evolution and the emergence of SARS coronavirus.

  • E. HolmesA. Rambaut
  • Biology
    Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences
  • 2004
It is shown that the phylogenetic patterns cited as evidence for recombination are more probably caused by a variation in substitution rate among lineages and that recombination is unlikely to explain the appearance of SARS in humans.

Infectious disease dynamics: What characterizes a successful invader?

  • R. MayS. GuptaA. McLean
  • Medicine
    Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences
  • 2001
Although primarily focusing on HIV and AIDS, this review will review wider aspects of these questions, and discuss how behavioural factors interweave with the basic biology of the production of transmission stages by the pathogen to determine the magnitude of R(0).