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Resources to Counter Infectious Diseases Poorly Allocated, Study Shows

March - April, 2008  |  Volume 7, Issue 2

Global resources to counter infectious disease emergence are poorly allocated, according to a recent Fogarty-supported study published in Nature. The majority of scientific and surveillance efforts are focused on countries where the next important emerging infectious diseases are least likely to originate. Meanwhile, there is a substantial risk of diseases springing up in lower latitudes where the reporting effort is low, the study reports.

The research team, headed by Fogarty grantee Dr. Peter Daszak of the Consortium for Conservation Medicine of the Wildlife Trust, analyzed a database of 335 emerging infectious diseases “events,” or origins of diseases, between 1940 and 2004 and discovered non-random global patterns. The effort was supported by funding from Fogarty’s Ecology of Infectious Diseases Initiative.

A little girl holding a chicken
The majority of emerging infectious
diseases are those transmitted from
animal to man. (WHO)

The study included newly evolved strains of pathogens such as multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis and chloroquine-resistant malaria, those that have recently entered human populations for the first time such as HIV-1 and SARS, and those that have probably been present in humans throughout history but have recently increased in incidence, including Lyme disease.

The majority of emerging infectious diseases origins in the database were zoonotic pathogens, or disease that began in animals, the study discovered. More than 70 percent of zoonotic disease events were caused by organisms with a wildlife origin and the number of such occurrences has increased significantly over time.

Given that zoonotic emerging diseases represent an increasing and serious threat to global health, the authors suggest more attention should be given to understanding the factors that increase interaction between humans and wildlife.

The analysis also revealed that events caused by drug-resistant microbes comprised about 20 percent of the cases and have increased considerably with time as well, most likely a result of a rise in antimicrobial drug use in developed countries.

Global trends in emerging infectious diseases. Kate E. Jones, Nikkita G. Patel, Marc A. Levy, Adam Storeygard, Deborah Balk, John L. Gittleman & Peter Daszak. Nature, 21 Feb. 2008, 451, pp. 990-993.

For full text of the article, visit: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v451/n7181/full/nature06536.html

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