Fast-lived Hosts and Zoonotic Risk

Trends Parasitol. 2021 Feb;37(2):117-129. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2020 Nov 17.


Because most emerging human pathogens originate in mammals, many studies aim to identify host traits that determine the risk of sourcing zoonotic outbreaks. Studies regularly assert that 'fast-lived' mammal species exhibiting greater fecundity and shorter lifespans tend to host more zoonoses; however, the causes of this association remain poorly understood and they cover a range of immune and nonimmune mechanisms. We discuss these drivers in the context of evolutionary ecology and wildlife-human interactions. Ultimately, differentiating these mechanisms will require linking interspecific variation in life history with immunity, pathogen diversity, transmissibility, and zoonotic risk, and critical data gaps currently limit our ability to do so. We highlight sampling and analytical frameworks to address this gap and to better inform zoonotic reservoir prediction.

Keywords: disease ecology; ecoimmunology; emerging infectious diseases; life history; zoonosis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biodiversity
  • Biological Evolution
  • Disease Reservoirs / parasitology
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / immunology*
  • Human-Animal Interaction
  • Humans
  • Longevity / physiology*
  • Parasitic Diseases / transmission*
  • Risk
  • Time Factors
  • Zoonoses / immunology*
  • Zoonoses / parasitology*
  • Zoonoses / transmission