Domesticated animals and human infectious diseases of zoonotic origins: domestication time matters

Infect Genet Evol. 2014 Jun:24:76-81. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2014.02.013. Epub 2014 Mar 15.


The rate of emergence for emerging infectious diseases has increased dramatically over the last century, and research findings have implicated wildlife as an importance source of novel pathogens. However, the role played by domestic animals as amplifiers of pathogens emerging from the wild could also be significant, influencing the human infectious disease transmission cycle. The impact of domestic hosts on human disease emergence should therefore be ascertained. Here, using three independent datasets we showed positive relationships between the time since domestication of the major domesticated mammals and the total number of parasites or infectious diseases they shared with humans. We used network analysis, to better visualize the overall interactions between humans and domestic animals (and amongst animals) and estimate which hosts are potential sources of parasites/pathogens for humans (and for all other hosts) by investigating the network architecture. We used centrality, a measure of the connection amongst each host species (humans and domestic animals) in the network, through the sharing of parasites/pathogens, where a central host (i.e. high value of centrality) is the one that is infected by many parasites/pathogens that infect many other hosts in the network. We showed that domesticated hosts that were associated a long time ago with humans are also the central ones in the network and those that favor parasites/pathogens transmission not only to humans but also to all other domesticated animals. These results urge further investigation of the diversity and origin of the infectious diseases of domesticated animals in their domestication centres and the dispersal routes associated with human activities. Such work may help us to better understand how domesticated animals have bridged the epidemiological gap between humans and wildlife.

Keywords: Comparative analysis; Domesticated animals; Domestication time; Network analysis; Zoonotic diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic* / microbiology
  • Animals, Domestic* / parasitology
  • Animals, Domestic* / virology
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / transmission*
  • Disease Reservoirs
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious
  • Humans
  • Zoonoses / transmission*