Global changes in land use are disrupting the balance of wild animal communities in our environment, and species that carry diseases known to infect humans appear to be benefiting, finds a new UCL-led study.
The findings, published in Nature, may have implications for future spillovers of diseases originating in animal hosts.
The research team, led by the UCL Centre for Biodiversity & Environment Research, studied evidence from 6,801 ecological communities from six continents, and found that animals known to carry pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms) that can infect humans were more common in landscapes intensively used by people.
The evidence was sourced from a dataset of 184 studies incorporating close to 7,000 species, 376 of which are known to carry human-shared pathogens.
The researchers say we may need to alter how we use land across the world to reduce the risk of future spillovers of infectious diseases.
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