Ecological origins of novel human pathogens

Crit Rev Microbiol. 2007;33(4):231-42. doi: 10.1080/10408410701647560.


A systematic literature survey suggests that there are 1399 species of human pathogen. Of these, 87 were first reported in humans in the years since 1980. The new species are disproportionately viruses, have a global distribution, and are mostly associated with animal reservoirs. Their emergence is often driven by ecological changes, especially with how human populations interact with animal reservoirs. Here, we review the process of pathogen emergence over both ecological and evolutionary time scales by reference to the "pathogen pyramid." We also consider the public health implications of the continuing emergence of new pathogens, focusing on the importance of international surveillance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / epidemiology
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / microbiology*
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / parasitology
  • Disease Reservoirs / microbiology*
  • Disease Reservoirs / parasitology
  • Geography
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans