1 Tahrcountry Musings: Biodiversity Loss Can Put You at Greater Risk of Catching Infectious Diseases

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Biodiversity Loss Can Put You at Greater Risk of Catching Infectious Diseases

New research suggests that biodiversity loss may put you at greater risk for catching some nasty disease.

According to the researchers, University of Vermont biologist Joe Roman, EPA scientist Montira Pongsiri, and seven others lots of new diseases are emerging and diseases that were once local are now global. A host of new infectious diseases like the West Nile Virus have appeared. Diseases like malaria have reasserted themselves and spread.

The present research is the first linking spread of diseases with biodiversity change, decline and extinction. Investigation in Peru was the first to demonstrate that malaria transmission can rise in response to deforestation. It appears that loss of the structural diversity provided by trees led to higher density of Anopheles darlingi mosquitoes, a potent transmitter of malaria, as well as to higher biting rates. The new research brings epidemiology and ecology together.

The researchers conclude "The standard argument for protecting biodiversity is often that, well, there are medicines out there and you don't want to destroy a forest where you might have a cure for cancer," he says, "and that's true -- but I don't think that's as compelling as the argument that if you cut down the forest you or your kids are more prone to infectious diseases."

Details of research appear in December issue of the journal BioScience available online on Dec. 7.

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