Scientists estimate that due to the evolution of our environment and lifestyle, new pandemics of the magnitude of Covid-19 are likely to emerge in the coming years.
Experts sound the alarm. While the Covid-19 epidemic is currently declining without being over, scientists are already considering the consequences and believe that new pandemics are likely to emerge in the coming years. This is particularly due to global warming, deforestation and increased movement of people.
H1N1, Zika, Ebola, Covid-19… Will Pandemics Be the Evil of the 21st Century? Some experts are concerned anyway when they observe the development of our lifestyle and our environment.
“The probability of a pandemic is greater than before,” warns Yazdan Yazdanpanah, director of the National Agency for Research on AIDS-Infectious Diseases (ANRS), in The Parisian.
Climate and fauna involved
First concern: global warming. “If the temperature rises by 4°C, there are bound to be more mosquitoes carrying microbes,” estimates the director of ANRS.
Rising temperatures — with the many consequences we envision for ecosystem development — also threaten many animal species to abandon their habitats and seek more livable places, according to a study published April 28 in the science journal American Nature. Which would result in them coming into contact with the human species.
This encounter between humans and certain animal species is not insignificant, since “65% of pathogens come from the animal world and the environment,” recalls Yazdan Yazdanpanah.
If nothing has been determined with certainty, it is also “very likely” that Sars-Cov2, the virus responsible for the Covid 19 epidemic, is itself a zoonosis, i.e. a disease of animal origin, recalls Benjamin Roche, head of research at the research institute for development, in Provence.
Other phenomena that contribute to increasing the risk of encounters between humans and animals: urbanization and with it the numerous deforestation, according to Yazdan Yazdanpanah, but also intensive agriculture and livestock farming, for Benjamin Roche.
Finally, the very frequent movements of people from one side of the world to the other help “accelerate the spread of viruses”, states the director of the ANRS. In summary, two opposing realities, according to the researcher: “On the one hand, the environment has changed, on the other hand, the population is getting older and more fragile”.
“To fight, we must innovate”
According to a Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report published in October 2020, the best way to combat the risks of a pandemic remains to significantly reduce human activities that threaten biodiversity and reduce contact between humans and animal species. Impossible mission? “It’s about finding a fair compromise with the needs of human nutrition,” said Benjamin Roche, one of the authors of the study.
But shouldn’t we fear that if we don’t drastically change our way of life, it’s already too late? Yazdan Yazdanpanah refuses to give in to pessimism as the scientific community is aware of the risks and we can prepare for them.
“To fight, you have to be innovative,” he says, even pointing to an “attack plan” being prepared among epidemiologists.
In particular, this plan would consist of closely studying the evolution of viruses in animals in order to better identify the diseases likely to be transmitted to the human species. Scientists are also working on new treatments and vaccines for “the five to ten epidemic pathogens such as Chikungunya or Zika,” says the doctor.
The “One Health – one health” projects launched in January 2021 are already dealing with the connections between human health and our environment. Research and study of viruses on animals aims to prevent the transmission of animal diseases to humans.