Deaths from Ebola, SARS & Nipah to soar 12x due to climate change: study

The study stated that the Covid-19 pandemic focused attention on patterns of infectious diseases spillover

Representative image (photo: IANS)
Representative image (photo: IANS)


Human deaths from zoonotic diseases like Ebola, Marburg, SARS and Nipah will increase by 12 times due to climate change by 2050, according to alarming research that calls for "urgent action".

The study, published in the journal BMJ Global Health, stated that the Covid-19 pandemic focused attention on patterns of infectious disease spillover.

Climate and land use changes are predicted to increase the frequency of zoonotic spillover events, which have been the cause of most modern epidemics.

Though the frequency of spillover-driven epidemics is predicted to increase as a result of human-driven climate and environmental change, the magnitude of its implications for global health in the future is difficult to characterise, given the limited empirical data on the frequency of zoonotic spillover, and its variability over time, said the team of researchers from the US company Concentric by Ginkgo, which works with governments on early warning monitoring of pandemics.

The study draws on an extensive epidemiological database to examine a specific subset of zoonotic spillover events for trends in the frequency and severity of outbreaks.

"We find the number of outbreaks and deaths caused collectively by this subset of pathogens (SARS Coronavirus 1, Filoviruses, Machupo virus, and Nipah virus) have been increasing at an exponential rate from 1963 to 2019," said corresponding author Dr Amanda Jean Meadows from Ginkgo. Ebola and MARS belong to the family of filoviruses.

Machupo virus causes Bolivian Hemorrhagic Fever Virus.

"If the trend observed in this study continues, we would expect these pathogens to cause four times the number of spillover events and 12 times the number of deaths in 2050, compared with 2020," Meadows added.

The study identified a total of 75 spillover events occurring in 24 countries from 1963 to 2019, causing a total of 17, 232 deaths from 1963 to 2019. They suggest that the series of these impactful spillover-driven epidemics are not random anomalies but follow a multi-decade trend in which epidemics have become both larger and more frequent.

The team's analysis, which excludes the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, shows that the number of spillover events and reported deaths have been increasing by 4.98 per cent and 8.7 per cent annually, respectively.

This trend can be altered by concerted global efforts to improve our capacity to prevent and contain outbreaks. Such efforts are needed to address this large and growing risk to global health, Meadows said in the paper.

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