Scientists estimate that new pandemics, of the magnitude of Covid-19, are likely to arise in the coming years as a result of the evolution of our environment and lifestyle.
Experts sound the alarm. While the Covid-19 epidemic is currently receding, with no end to it, scientists are already thinking about its aftermath and believe new pandemics are likely to emerge in the coming years. This is mainly due to global warming, deforestation and the increase in human traffic.
H1N1, Zika, Ebola, Covid-19… Are Pandemics the Evil of the 21st Century? In any case, some experts are concerned when they observe the evolution of our lifestyle and our environment.
“The risk of a pandemic is greater than before,” warns Yazdan Yazdanpanah, director of the National Agency for Research on AIDS-Infectious Diseases (ANRS), in the Parisian†
Involved climate and animal fauna
First concern: global warming. “If the temperature rises by 4°C, there will undoubtedly be more mosquitoes, which carry microbes,” estimates the director of the ANRS.
The rise in temperature — with the many impacts we envision on ecosystem evolution — also threatens to cause many animal species to leave their habitats for more livable places, also reports a study published April 28 in the scientific journal American. Nature† Which would bring them into contact with the human species.
This encounter between humans and certain animal species is not unimportant, as “65% of pathogens come from the animal world and the environment,” Yazdan Yazdanpanah recalled.
In addition, if nothing has been established with certainty, it is also “very likely” that Sars-Cov2, the virus responsible for the Covid-19 epidemic, is itself a zoonosis, ie a disease of animal origin, Benjamin Roche recalls. . director of research at the research institute for development, in Provence†
Other phenomena that increase the chance of encounters between humans and animals: urbanization, and therefore the numerous deforestation, according to Yazdan Yazdanpanah, but also intensive agriculture and livestock, for Benjamin Roche.
Finally, the very frequent movements of people from one side of the world to another contribute to “accelerating the spread of viruses”, the director of the ANRS says. In summary, two opposing realities, for the researcher: “on the one hand, the environment has changed, on the other hand, the population is aging and more vulnerable”.
“To fight, we must innovate”
According to a report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), published in October 2020, the best way to combat the risks of a pandemic remains by significantly reducing human activities that endanger biodiversity and reducing contact between humans and animal species. . Impossible mission? “It’s a matter of finding a fair compromise with the needs of human nutrition,” said Benjamin Roche, one of the authors of the study.
But can we not fear that it is already too late unless we drastically change our way of life? Yazdan Yazdanpanah refuses to give in to pessimism, as the scientific community is aware of the risks and that we can prepare for them.
“To fight, you have to innovate,” he says, even referring to a “plan of attack” in preparation among epidemiologists.
In particular, this plan would consist of closely studying the evolution of viruses in animals, in order to better identify the diseases that can be transmitted to humans. Scientists are also working on new treatments and vaccines for “the five to 10 pathogens at epidemic risk, such as chikungunya or Zika,” the doctor said.
The “One Health – one health” projects, launched in January 2021, are already looking at the links between human health and our environment. By starting research and study of viruses on animals, it aims to prevent the transmission of animal diseases to humans.