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Species down, disease up
Date:12/3/2009

The extinction of plant and animal species can be likened to emptying a museum of its collection, or dumping a cabinet full of potential medicines into the trash, or replacing every local cuisine with McDonald's burgers.

But the decline of species and their habitats may not just make the world boring. New research now suggests it may also put you at greater risk for catching some nasty disease.

"Habitat destruction and biodiversity loss,"driven by the replacement of local species by exotic ones, deforestation, global transportation, encroaching cities, and other environmental changes"can increase the incidence and distribution of infectious diseases in humans," write University of Vermont biologist Joe Roman, EPA scientist Montira Pongsiri, and seven co-authors in BioScience.

Their study, "Biodiversity Loss Affects Global Disease Ecology," will appear in the December issue of the journal, available on-line on December 7, 2009.

Diseases Go Global

"Lots of new diseases are emerging, and diseases that were once local are now global," says Roman, a wildlife expert and fellow at UVM's Gund Institute for Ecological Economics. "Diseases like West Nile Virus have spread around the world very quickly."

This is not the first time humans have faced a raft of new diseases. About 10,000 years ago, humans invented farming. This move from hunting to agriculture brought permanent settlements, domestication of animals, and changes in diet. It also brought new infectious diseases, in what scientists call an "epidemiologic transition."

Another of these transitions came with the Industrial Revolution. Infectious diseases decreased in many places while cancer, allergies and birth defects shot up.

Now, it seems, another epidemiologic transition is upon us. A host of new infectious diseaseslike West Nile Virushave appeared. And infectious diseases thought to be in declinelike malariahave reasserted the
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Contact: Joshua Brown
joshua.e.brown@uvm.edu
802-656-3039
University of Vermont
Source:Eurekalert

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