Research at the University of Liverpool suggests pets and other domesticated animals could provide new clues into the emergence of infections that can spread between animals and humans.
The study showed that the number of parasites and pathogens shared by humans and animals is related to how long animals have been domesticated.
The findings suggest that although wild animals may be important for the transmission of new diseases to humans, humanity’s oldest companions – livestock and pets such as cattle and dogs provide the vital link in the emergence of new diseases.
Using data sourced from existing studies and information collected together in the Liverpool ENHanCEd Infectious Diseases (EID2) database, the researchers cross-referenced all known cases of parasites and pathogens in domestic animals with the length of time they have been domesticated by man.
In dogs, which have been domesticated for over 17,000 years, there were 71 shared parasites and pathogens, and in the 11,000 year association between humans and cattle, 34 have accumulated.
The research examined ‘centrality’, to determine which domestic animals are in the middle of a web of shared infections. These animals are most active in spreading disease to other domesticated species. This ‘centrality’ linked directly with the length of time since domestication.
The EID2 database used in the study was created by University researchers in the Institute of Infection and Global Health to bring a ‘big data’ approach to emerging diseases. It contains information from more than 60 mill. papers, pieces of electronic reference material and textbooks on the spread and emergence of pathogens around the world, and can be cross-referenced with data on climate change, which also affects the spread of some diseases.
Source: University of Liverpool