The environmental roots of zoonotic diseases: from SARS-CoV-2 to cancer viruses. A review.

  • Carlo Modonesi


The destruction of natural habitats and change in land use contribute to biodiversity loss by increasing species extinction and weakening the functions of ecosystems. Ecosystems often are unsafe for humans because animals that host viruses or other pathogens become dominant within impoverished biological communities. The risk of infection propagation from one animal species to other species depends on the size of the reservoir population and the “ability” of pathogen to spillover: an event that is more likely to occur in phylogenetically related hosts. Zoonotic spillover is the transmission of pathogens to humans from vertebrate animals. If human activities contributing to the alteration of ecosystems do not slow down, the critical state of biodiversity can turn into an important driver of emerging pathogens, including viruses involved in neoplastic diseases. A radical reform of the current growth-based economic model is urgently needed to counter the unsustainable human pressure on the natural environment and the risk of new pandemics.


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