December 1, 2012 – HEALTH – Vector-borne zoonotic diseases result from disease-causing agents or pathogens that naturally infect wildlife, and are transmitted to humans by carriers such as mosquitoes and ticks. In short, they’re diseases transmitted between animals and humans. Widespread land-use change, globalization of trade and travel, and social upheaval are driving the emergence of zoonotic diseases around the world, said biologist Marm Kilpatrick, who studies the ecology of infectious diseases at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Kilpatrick co-authored one of several papers in The Lancet, along with Sarah Randolph of the University of Oxford.
The Lancet papers are part of a special series in the journal focused on emerging zoonotic diseases. “Increasing human population, and the urbanization and agricultural intensification of landscapes, put strong selective pressure on vector-borne pathogens to infect humans—and to be transmitted by vectors and hosts that live around humans,” Kilpatrick said. “Humans are altering the environment and moving ourselves and other organisms around the globe at an ever-increasing pace,” said Sam Scheiner, a program director for the Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Diseases (EEID) program at the National Science Foundation. “Our fast-track has led to a growing disease threat.” EEID is a joint effort with NSF and the National Institutes of Health. At NSF, the Directorate for Biological Sciences and Directorate for Geosciences fund the program. EEID funded much of the research discussed in The Lancet papers. “These papers show how and why zoonotic diseases are emerging, and what we need to know to ease the disease burden,” said Scheiner. The papers “offer a bridge between ecologists and clinicians whose combined efforts are needed to address the ongoing challenges of emerging zoonotic diseases,” said Kilpatrick. –Medical Xpress