Domesticated animals provide vital link to emergence of new diseases

May 16, 2014
Domesticated animals provide vital link to emergence of new diseases
The study showed that the longer an animal had been domesticated, the more parasites and pathogens it shared with humans.

Research at the University of Liverpool suggests pets and other domesticated animals could provide new clues into the emergence of infections that can spread between animals and humans.

The study showed that the number of parasites and pathogens shared by humans and animals is related to how long animals have been domesticated.

Livestock and pets

The findings suggest that although may be important for the transmission of new diseases to humans, humanity's oldest companions – livestock and pets such as cattle and dogs provide the vital link in the emergence of new diseases.

Using data sourced from existing studies and information collected together in the Liverpool ENHanCEd Infectious Diseases (EID2) database, the researchers cross-referenced all known cases of parasites and pathogens in domestic animals with the length of time they have been domesticated by man.

In dogs, which have been domesticated for over 17,000 years, there were 71 shared parasites and pathogens, and in the 11,000 year association between humans and cattle, 34 have accumulated.

Epidemiologist, Dr Marie McIntyre was part of the study team. She said: "We don't have enough knowledge of how new diseases get from wildlife into humans.

"This study shows that can play an important role in that process and that diseases have been shared in this way for thousands of years."

The research examined 'centrality', to determine which domestic animals are in the middle of a web of shared infections. These animals are most active in spreading to other domesticated species. This 'centrality' linked directly with the length of time since domestication.

Big data approach

The EID2 database used in the study was created by University researchers in the Institute of Infection and Global Health to bring a 'big data' approach to emerging diseases. It contains information from more than 60 million papers, pieces of electronic reference material and textbooks on the spread and emergence of around the world, and can be cross-referenced with data on climate change, which also affects the spread of some diseases.

Dr McIntyre said: "Using data in this way can help us address the major threat of new diseases and the spread of existing diseases caused by .

"Vast amounts of research are being carried out in this field, yet it isn't easy to search or draw patterns from it. As with this research into , a database can help by bringing huge amounts of evidence together in one place."

Explore further: Humans and companion animals harbor the same types of MRSA infections

Related Stories

China study improves understanding of disease spread

May 01, 2014

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have shown how the travel and socialisation patterns of people in Southern China can give greater insight into how new diseases such as bird flu may spread between ...

New Research Investigates How Diseases Spread in Primates

Aug 27, 2012

A new international study has investigated how diseases are shared among species of primates with a view to predicting what diseases may emerge in humans in the future. The findings aim to help in the fight against these ...

Recommended for you

Extreme excavation: Fire ant style

7 hours ago

Fans of The Lord of the Rings may disagree, but when it comes to exquisite excavation, the dwarves of Moria have nothing on the mighty fire ants of Georgia Tech. But Dan Goldman and Michael Goodisman aren't fascinated by ...

What drives the evolution of bird nest structures?

10 hours ago

How to protect your chicks from predators? Build a dome over them! There is tremendous diversity among the nests of birds, in nest location, structure, materials, and more, but we know very little about the forces that shaped ...

Genetics for producing thousands of queen bees

15 hours ago

Mexico has launched its first Center for Queen Bee Breeding in the center-north state of Aguascalientes, which aims to support productivity for 45 thousand Mexican producers of honey, which last year generated ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.