Study finds that loss of biodiversity may help viruses become more resilient and abundant!
In an interconnected world looking to unravel the missing links between environmental shifts, biodiversity loss and the spread of viral pathogens, scientists have uncovered an important piece of the puzzle.
Researchers from Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) recently showed how tropical deforestation is harming the diversity of mosquito species.
As more resilient mosquito species survive this attack, the select few viruses carried by these vectors become more abundant. This creates an ecosystem where only a handful of powerful viruses thrive and emerge from human competition, ready to unleash terror.
To validate these findings, the research team first trapped mosquitoes around Taï National Park in the West African country of Côte d’Ivoire, where one can easily collect samples from pristine rainforests, secondary cocoa and coffee plantations, and human village settlements to study mosquito diversity. And by spreading the virus throughout the landscape.
Their mission was threefold: capture mosquitoes, identify their species, and test them for viral infections. It’s safe to say they’ve made some amazing discoveries!
First, they found that lush rainforests host a myriad of virus species due to the rich tapestry of animal species, with each virus closely related to its host. But as ecosystem host populations shift, so do viruses.
Of the 49 different virus species identified in untouched habitats, nine species thrived in habitats altered by human activity, with five virus species most prevalent in human settlements.
“This means that clearing tropical rainforests leads to a decrease in the diversity of mosquito species, which changes the species composition of the host. Some resilient mosquito species have reproduced very successfully in Areas that have been disinfected, carrying their viruses with them.
This discovery paints a clear picture of how viruses relate to their vectors, and shows for the first time how the spread of viruses is linked to the characteristics of their hosts, especially those mosquito species that perform well in disturbed habitats.
Although this study focuses on viruses that infect only mosquitoes and do not pose a direct threat to humans, its findings serve as invaluable models, providing insight into how changes in species diversity affect viral infections.
Emphasizing the vital role of biodiversity, Professor Jonglin points out: “Our study shows how important biodiversity is, and that decreasing biodiversity makes it easier for some viruses to thrive because they make their hosts more abundant.”
With this pioneering study, scientists want to embark on further exploration in diverse environments around the world. They aim to uncover the precise factors that influence mosquito species diversity within ever-changing landscapes around the world and what allows some pathogens to establish their virulent control, while others struggle.
This study was published in the journal eLife It can be accessed here.
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