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Drivers of disease emergence and spread: Is wildlife to blame?

Kock, R A


R A Kock


The global focus on wildlife as a major contributor to emerging pathogens and infectious diseases (EIDs) in humans and domestic animals is not based on field, experimental or dedicated research, but mostly on limited surveys of literature, opinion and the assumption that biodiversity harbours pathogens. The perceived and direct impacts of wildlife, from being a reservoir of certain human and livestock pathogens and as a risk to health, are frequently overstated when compared to the Global burden of disease statistics available from WHO, OIE and FAO. However organisms that evolve in wildlife species can and do spill-over into human landscapes and humans and domestic animal population and, where these organisms adapt to surviving and spreading amongst livestock and humans, these emerging infections can have significant consequences. Drivers for the spill-over of pathogens or evolution of organisms from wildlife reservoirs to become pathogens of humans and domestic animals are varied but almost without exception poorly researched. The changing demographics, spatial distribution and movements, associated landscape modifications (especially agricultural) and behavioural changes involving human and domestic animal populations are probably the core drivers of the apparent increasing trend in emergence of new pathogens and infectious diseases over recent decades.


Kock, R. A. (in press). Drivers of disease emergence and spread: Is wildlife to blame?. Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research, 81(2),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 1, 2014
Deposit Date Feb 14, 2019
Publicly Available Date Feb 26, 2019
Print ISSN 0030-2465
Publisher AOSIS
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 81
Issue 2
Public URL