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Scientists say tropics are next emerging disease hotspot
Date:3/13/2008

Scientists from four well-known institutions say the next major disease like HIV/AIDS or SARS could occur in any of a number of developing countries concentrated along the equator. They encourage increased surveillance to prevent the spread of a potential outbreak.

Using global databases and sophisticated computer models to analyze patterns of emerging diseases, the researchers -- from the Consortium for Conservation Medicine (CCM) at Wildlife Trust, N.Y., the Institute of Zoology, London, U.K., Columbia University, N.Y., and the University of Georgia, Athens, Ga. -- are able for the first time to plot, map and predict where the next pandemic might occur.

Funded through a Human and Social Dynamics Exploratory Research award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Arlington, Va., the research represents a major breakthrough in understanding where and why pandemic diseases emerge and provides a key tool for preventing them in the future.

"This is an important area of research," said Rita Teutonico, advisor for integrative activities in NSF's Directorate for Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences. "After years of debate, the scientific community is now able to offer a convincing, predictive tool to help policy professionals and resource managers better allocate global resources in the fight against emerging diseases."

By analyzing global patterns in human population density, population changes, latitude, rainfall and wildlife biodiversity in correlation with patterns of emerging diseases, the researchers were able to show for the first time definitive proof that the number of emerging diseases is increasing.

They cite zoonoses -- diseases that originate in animals -- as the primary problem and conclude these are the most current and important threat to humans. The research shows "that the key threat to public health is where human population growth and wildlife diversity clash," said Peter Daszak, executive director of th
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Contact: Bobbie Mixon
bmixon@nsf.gov
703-292-8485
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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