Danger in the deeps: COVID‑19 spread through wastewater could devastate some marine mammal species

Danger in the deeps: COVID‑19 spread through wastewater could devastate some marine mammal species

SOURCE: Phys.org DATE: November 9, 2020 SNIP: Certain species of whales, seals and other endangered marine mammals could fall victim to COVID-19 infection through wastewater and sewage that seeps into their marine habitats, researchers at Dalhousie say in a new study that has found some of the animals to be highly susceptible to the virus. In a study published in Science of the Total Environment, the team describes how it used genomic mapping to determine which marine mammals would be vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. They looked at key amino acids that the virus binds to and found that there were striking similarities between those in humans and in several marine mammals, including dolphins, beluga whales, seals and sea otters. Graham Dellaire (shown left), director of research in the Department of Pathology at Dalhousie, led the research that used a modeling approach to predict a marine mammal’s susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2. The team found at least 15 marine mammal species were susceptible to infection from SARS-CoV-2 because of their ACE2 receptors—the critical protein required for the virus to enter and infect the cell. Importantly, more than half of the species determined to be vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 are already at risk globally. “Many of these species are threatened or critically endangered,” says Dr. Dellaire. “In the past, these animals have been infected by related coronaviruses that have caused both mild disease as well as life-threatening liver and lung damage.” The team predicts that the majority of whale, dolphin and porpoise species—18 out of 21—have the same or higher susceptibility to the virus as humans, while eight out of...
UN report says up to 850,000 animal viruses could be caught by humans, unless we protect nature

UN report says up to 850,000 animal viruses could be caught by humans, unless we protect nature

SOURCE: The Conversation DATE: October 29, 2020 SNIP: Human damage to biodiversity is leading us into a pandemic era. The virus that causes COVID-19, for example, is linked to similar viruses in bats, which may have been passed to humans via pangolins or another species. Environmental destruction such as land clearing, deforestation, climate change, intense agriculture and the wildlife trade is putting humans into closer contact with wildlife. Animals carry microbes that can be transferred to people during these encounters. A major report released today says up to 850,000 undiscovered viruses which could be transferred to humans are thought to exist in mammal and avian hosts. The report, by The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), says to avoid future pandemics, humans must urgently transform our relationship with the environment. The report says, on average, five new diseases are transferred from animals to humans every year – all with pandemic potential. In the past century, these have included: the Ebola virus (from fruit bats), AIDS (from chimpazees), Lyme disease (from ticks), the Hendra virus (which first erupted at a Brisbane racing stable in 1994). The report says an estimated 1.7 million currently undiscovered viruses are thought to exist in mammal and avian hosts. Of these, 540,000-850,000 could infect humans. But rather than prioritising the prevention of pandemic outbreaks, governments around the world primarily focus on responding – through early detection, containment and hope for rapid development of vaccines and medicines. This approach can also damage biodiversity – for example, leading to large culls of identified carrier-species. Tens of thousands of wild animals were culled...
Mosquito-borne diseases could reach extra ‘one billion people’ as climate warms

Mosquito-borne diseases could reach extra ‘one billion people’ as climate warms

SOURCE: CarbonBrief DATE: March 28, 2019 SNIP: Nearly one billion people could face “their first exposure” to a host of mosquito-borne diseases by 2080 under extreme global warming, a study finds. Countries in Europe, including the UK, would be the most affected by the influence of extreme warming on diseases such as dengue fever, Zika and chikungunya, the research says. Meeting the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting warming to below 2C could greatly stem the increase, the authors say. However, this would also shift the burden of disease from wealthy mid-latitude countries to the developing tropics. The findings “point to a future world where a much larger proportion of the human population will be at risk of viruses borne by mosquitoes,” a scientist tells Carbon...
Climate Change Is Having a Major Impact on Global Health

Climate Change Is Having a Major Impact on Global Health

SOURCE: Scientific American DATE: March 1, 2019 SNIP: Warming temperatures do not only threaten lives directly. They also cause billions of hours of lost labor, enhance conditions for the spread of infectious diseases and reduce crop yields, according to a recent report. The report, published last December in the Lancet, represents the latest findings of the Lancet Countdown—a coalition of international research organizations collaborating with the World Health Organization and the World Meteorological Organization. The group tracks the health impacts of—and government responses to—climate change. “It affects everyone around the world—every single person, every single population. No country is immune,” says Nick Watts, executive director of the Lancet Countdown and one of many co-authors of the report. “We’ve been seeing these impacts for some time now.” The report found that millions of people worldwide are vulnerable to heat-related disease and death and that populations in Europe and the eastern Mediterranean are especially susceptible—most likely because they have more elderly people living in urban areas. Adults older than 65 are particularly at risk, as are those with chronic illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes. Places where humans tend to live are exposed to an average temperature change that is more than twice the global average—0.8 versus 0.3 degree Celsius (graphic). There were 157 million more “heat wave exposure events” (one heat wave experienced by one person) in 2017 than in 2000. Compared with 1986 to 2005, each person was exposed to, on average, 1.4 more days of heat wave per year from 2000 to 2017. That may not seem like a lot, but as Watts notes, “someone who is...
Climate change risk to Europe’s most dangerous pathogens revealed

Climate change risk to Europe’s most dangerous pathogens revealed

SOURCE: University of Liverpool DATE: Aug 2, 2017 SNIP: The impact of climate change on the emergence and spread of infectious diseases could be greater than previously thought, according to new research by the University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health. The study, published in Scientific Reports, is the first large-scale assessment of how climate affects bacterium, viruses or other microorganisms and parasites (pathogens) that can cause disease in humans or animals in Europe. Diseases spread by insects and ticks (vector-borne diseases) were found to be the most climate sensitive, followed by those transmitted in soil, water and food. The diseases with the largest number of different climate drivers were Vibrio cholerae (cause of cholera), Fasciola hepatica (cause of liver fluke), Bacillus anthracis (cause of anthrax) and Borrelia burgdorferi (cause of tickborne Lyme...