Jumping species: how good intentions spread diseases

Ian Le Guillou at Understanding Animal Research (UAR) tells us how infectious diseases jump between species. These jumps often happen because of things that humans do. Sometimes, the disease jumps to us. Diseases that can infect humans and also other species are called zoonoses.

I like UAR. These people are doing something that I’d long wanted to happen – talking sensibly about animal work in labs. So I’m a little frustrated to find a few errors in Dr Le Guillou’s article. Only small errors, which you might not notice unless you’ve written a PhD thesis about Toxoplasma gondii as I did. For example, Dr Le Guillou says that Toxo prevalence in humans is 50% and it isn’t. Unless new data has been published, the best estimate we have is that it’s about 30%.

Picky? Moi? Yes I’m picky. But apart from the picky bits, I like this article. Diseases which jump host species can be truly devastating. Dr Le Guillou gives examples in mammals and amphibians but it’s much wider too. Some of the emerging tree diseases have jumped from tree to tree. Crop diseases jump species too, and I haven’t even started on arthropod diseases.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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5 Responses to Jumping species: how good intentions spread diseases

  1. Finn Holding says:

    Hello Sam, you’re right to be picky in this instance. The difference between 30% and 50% simply in terms of the UK population is around 12 million people. And on a global level 1.2 billion people – and in my book that’s an unacceptable error!

    I’d be very interested to read any future post on transmission of pathogens from species to species and how human intervention has affected the balance one way or another.

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