Preserving Biodiversity Helps Prevent Disease Spread from Animals to People: New Research Spells It Out


photo: Jasja Dekker via flickr
New Scientist shows us another reason why preserving biodiversity is so important: Preventing the spread of diseases from animals to humans. A new paper from scientists at Portland State University looks at the spread of the Sin Nobre Virus, otherwise known as the Hantavirus (which kills about 500 people per year in the US) and found that increased biodiversity limited the spread of the virus among deer mice. It's the droppings of the deer mice which spreads the disease among humans:Low Diversity = High Disease
The researchers made the connection between increased mammal diversity and lower infection rates among deer mice after conducting field work in Portland's parks for the past four years. In place where mammal diversity was lowest infection levels increased dramatically.

This work reinforces work done at a site in Panama, and reported on back in May, that found that rates of hantavirus tripled at the number of rodent species dropped.

Both these findings are important because, though it's long been suspected among biologists that there's a correlation between increased biodiversity and limiting the spread of disease, this is only the second time where this has been confirmed through field research.

Lyme Disease Also Limited When Biodiversity Increases
Previously, Lyme Disease was the only disease whose spread was confirmed to be limited by the dilution effect when species diversity increased. The more animals that can be bitten by the ticks that don't spread the disease the less of a chance it will be transmitted.

More: Increased Host Species Diversity and Decreased Prevalence of Sin Nombre Virus (PDF)

via: New Scientist
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Tags: Animals | Biodiversity | Ecology