The growing Danger from the Zoonoses.

Zoonoses are defined by the WHO as “Diseases and infections which are naturally transmitted between vertebrate animals and man”.
In an article in the scientific American today, David Biello says that the best way to beat bird flu and other zoonotic diseases, he says, is to keep humans and wildlife healthy.
A zoonotic agent may be a bacterium, virus, fungus, parasite, or other communicable agent.

Zoonoses cover a broad and growing range of diseases and they can be transmitted by bacterium, virus, fungus, parasite, or a number of other (also growing) agents.

A recent study shows that these zoonoses such as H5N1 bird flu, West Nile and Ebola now account for as much as 58 percent of human pathogens and the number is growing fast.
In just the past five years, WHO has identified more than 1,000 epidemics stemming from such pathogens.
“There are more flu infections in more countries than ever before,” said veterinarian William Karesh, head of the Field Veterinary Program of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), during a WSC Conferance in New York City last week.
These diseases are hard to stop because they are not only spread by wild animals, mosquitoes and the like but, even more commonly, by billions of livestock animals, such as chickens, ducks and geese raised for food in vast factory farms.
Zoonotic outbreaks are triggered by a range of factors, including man-made changes to natural habitats that bring humans into contact with wildlife as well as airplanes and other forms of transport that allow “speedy, long-range dissemination of any disease agent,” says veterinarian Arnon Shimshoni of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“There is an artificial distinction between the health of wildlife, livestock and people,” Karesh said. Sickness in one of these groups, can mean sickness in all.

British Lords to look in to the spread of infectious diseases

The British Lords have now decided to examine the effectiveness of action by intergovernmental organisations, to control the spread of infectious diseases.

Their Lordships are to examine how cross-border policy issues are being addressed through UK membership of intergovernmental bodies.

(2) The Lord Chancellor

The Committee, which is chaired by Lord Soley, has chosen for its first inquiry to examine how effectively the global spread of communicable diseases is being controlled through action by intergovernmental organisations. 

The Committee will be looking not only at what medical agencies, such as the World Health Organisation, are doing but also at how other bodies, such as the UN Children’s Fund and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, are involved and will be assessing, among other things, whether there is adequate synergy between the various participants.

Lord Soley

The Labour peer Lord Soley, Chairman of the new Committee, said:

“Infectious diseases are no respecters of national frontiers.  Much good work to prevent or control them is being done by a range of intergovernmental organisations of which the UK is a member.

“Our Committee wishes to assess how effective these efforts are proving to be and how well coordinated they are. We also want to see what intergovernmental preparations are being made to cope with emerging diseases.

“We will be focusing initially on HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis and Avian Influenza, all of them actual or potential killers on a large scale.

Our Call for Evidence has gone to a wide range of bodies with acknowledged expertise in the subject, but we would welcome evidence from anyone who feels he or she can contribute”.

Of course with the recent accusations of “Money for titles” leveled at the British Government, added to the practice of the ex Prime Minister Blair of “stuffing the House of Lords with his labour cronies”, the Noble House of Lords is considered by some, to be not as NOBLE as it once was!


Bird Flu mixed with Ebola would be the ultimate Nightmare!

The term Recombinant DNA is normally used for DNA that has been created artificially.

DNA from two or more sources is incorporated into a single recombinant molecule via the combination or insertion of one or more DNA strands, thereby combining DNA sequences which would not normally occur together.

However, recombination is also an important mechanism in virus evolution, allowing viruses to evolve more quickly by providing immediate direct access to many more areas of a sequence space than are accessible by mutation alone.

The exchange of genetic material between different virus species is called inter-species recombination.

This has the potential to generate, within a single genome replication cycle, an almost unimaginable number of genetically distinct virus strains, including many that might cause deadly new human, animal, or plant diseases.

As an example, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is formed by a combination of mammalian and avian viruses, according to a new study from the University of Toronto.

The study, published in the January issue of the Journal of Virology, sheds light on the SARS coronavirus, a deadly form of pneumonia caused by the same viral family as the common cold.

I have been interested in this “evolutionary shortcut” for a while now.

It was with a real sense of dread therefore that I read the following article from Recombinomics laying out the chilling possibility of a mutated combination of H5N1 with Ebola.

Ebola virus

Even Hollywood could not produce any thing worse than that! 

Here is the article from Recombinomics:

The conventional wisdom was that Ebola is containable because it kills its victims faster than it can find new ones.

However, conditions on the ground are now proving otherwise.

While 61 cases have been identified, Zaramba says the health ministry is having difficulty detecting more cases or identifying people with whom patients had contact.

And as of the weekend, the disease had spread to three new zones in Bundibugyo district.

Local officials speaking on the condition of anonymity say that the death toll is almost twice that reported.

The above comments describe the worsening situation in Uganda.

Recent media reports suggest the outbreak has spread further this week, and the infections of health care workers raise transmission concerns.

The current strain was difficult to identify, and is likely a recombinant.  Recombination has been linked to the emergence of new Ebola strains, and some of these strains share a region of identity with H5 influenza.

Both influenza and filoviruses are negative sense RNA viruses and influenza is transported and transmitted by migratory birds that fly into Africa.

The new species may also have different transmission modes.

The symptoms of the cases are closer to those associated with H5N1 than those associated with Ebola.

The CDC has partial Ebola sequence data, but the relationship between those sequences and prior Ebola sequences remain unclear.

Release of the partial sequences would be useful.  The Ebola / H5 identity is in the envelope gene, and the region has differences in strains of Ebola as well as high and low path H5.