Deforestation is prime suspect for new viruses

Is nature striking back against deforestation?

Research into viruses that jumped from animals to humans has shown the same patterns to recur. Deforestation and fragmentation of tropical forests gives rise to a specific dynamics that promote the spread of diseases. Experts write Amy Vittor, Gabriel Zorella Laporta and Maria Anice Mureb Sallum.

Pangolins are mammals of the order Pholidota (from Ancient Greek, “horny scale"). The one extant family, Manidae, has three genera: Manis, Phataginus and Smutsia. Manis comprises the four species found in Asia, while Phataginus and Smutsia each include two species living in Sub-Saharan Africa. These species range in size from 30 to 100 cm (12 to 39 in). A number of extinct pangolin species are also known.

While many species disappear, as forests are destroyed, some species adapt. The species that succeed in this, appear to occur in higher concentrations and also increase the number of infections.

The facts make it clear that humans must balance the production of food, forest raw materials and other products with the protection of tropical forests. Protecting wild animal species can also help curb their diseases, avoid zoonotic transmission and thus benefit humans.

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