Anthropogenic environmental change and the emergence of infectious diseases in wildlife

Acta Trop. 2001 Feb 23;78(2):103-16. doi: 10.1016/s0001-706x(00)00179-0.


By using the criteria that define emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) of humans, we can identify a similar group of EIDs in wildlife. In the current review we highlight an important series of wildlife EIDs: amphibian chytridiomycosis; diseases of marine invertebrates and vertebrates and two recently-emerged viral zoonoses, Nipah virus disease and West Nile virus disease. These exemplify the varied etiology, pathogenesis, zoonotic potential and ecological impact of wildlife EIDs. Strikingly similar underlying factors drive disease emergence in both human and wildlife populations. These are predominantly ecological and almost entirely the product of human environmental change. The implications of wildlife EIDs are twofold: emerging wildlife diseases cause direct and indirect loss of biodiversity and add to the threat of zoonotic disease emergence. Since human environmental changes are largely responsible for their emergence, the threats wildlife EIDs pose to biodiversity and human health represent yet another consequence of anthropogenic influence on ecosystems. We identify key areas where existing expertise in ecology, conservation biology, wildlife biology, veterinary medicine and the impact of environmental change would augment programs to investigate emerging diseases of humans, and we comment on the need for greater medical and microbiological input into the study of wildlife diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Animal Diseases / etiology*
  • Animal Diseases / microbiology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / microbiology*
  • Animals, Wild / parasitology
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / epidemiology
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / etiology*
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / microbiology
  • Ecology
  • Environment
  • Humans
  • Zoonoses / epidemiology
  • Zoonoses / etiology
  • Zoonoses / microbiology