How are Zoonotic Pathogens Threatening Global Healthcare Systems?


Zoonotic pathogens are a huge public health concern around the world. Domestic and agricultural animals, as well as those living in the wild world, have close relationships with humans.

The nature of zoonotic pathogens and the risk associated with these microorganisms for global healthcare are discussed in this article. At the conclusion of the conversation, we take a quick look at what is already being done and what additional could be done to address the threat.

What exactly are zoonoses?

A zoonosis is an infectious disease that has crossed the species barrier from animals to humans. Bacterial, viral, and parasitic pathogens are all examples of zoonotic pathogens. Humans are exposed to them through food, water, or the environment. Certain illnesses, such as HIV, start out as zoonoses before evolving into human-only types.

Salmonellosis and the Ebola virus are two examples of zoonoses that can produce recurrent disease outbreaks. In addition to the diseases we already know about, they are responsible for a considerable portion of newly discovered infectious diseases. Zoonoses are also responsible for some of the most well-known and deadly epidemics and pandemics, such as the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, which was caused by a newly discovered novel coronavirus known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. (SARS-CoV-2).

Do zoonotic infections pose a threat to global healthcare?

Antibiotic resistance and the difficulty of surveillance for the introduction of zoonotic infections are two key risks to world healthcare posed by zoonotic pathogens. We’ll start with the obstacles provided by antibiotic use before delving deeper into the issues surrounding worldwide surveillance.

Antibiotic resistance is a serious problem.

Antimicrobial resistance is a problem that affects healthcare systems all around the world. Antibiotic usage in agricultural cattle is common, and the practise increases the risk of zoonotic infections developing resistant forms. Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), which has lately been renamed Clostridioides difficile, is an outstanding example.

C. difficile, an intestinal bacteria that causes a variety of unpleasant and frequently fatal diseases, is a common source of dread among hospital staff around the world. This is due to the pathogen’s ease of dissemination, as well as its tenacity and impossibility of eradication. In this regard, endemic zoonoses may be a more serious and pervasive hazard to human and animal health than pandemics.

Surveillance around the world

Moving on to global surveillance, experts warn that zoonotic disease surveillance must be integrated into health security intelligence systems as soon as possible; certainly, this is a critical concern in our globally connected world. Only in this manner can we hope to effectively manage the advent of future pandemics.

It is said that zoonotic illnesses are the greatest threat to human and animal populations’ health security. The issue is global in scope, impacting both affluent and poor countries. We’ll start with the problem that exists in poorer locations before moving on to the world’s wealthier regions.

Emerging zoonotic illnesses are known to be particularly prevalent in low- and middle-income countries’ isolated rural areas. Surveillance of zoonotic diseases has evolved significantly in this area during the previous two decades, albeit efforts are mostly focused on urban and neighbouring communities.

Exposure to livestock and wild animals is more common in remote and rural areas (as well as close contact with domestic animals). In addition, endemic and neglected zoonotic diseases such as anthrax, rabies, and bovine tuberculosis are found in these populations, resulting in billions of cases and millions of fatalities each year. When it comes to the management of emergent zoonoses, these impoverished regions have limited access to healthcare and significantly less support than urban areas.

Due to socioeconomic and environmental factors such as inequality and climate change, zoonotic illnesses persist in certain parts of the world. Reduced surveillance in these locations causes delays in detecting and responding to disease outbreaks, raising the danger of a pandemic. Due to latent amplification, travel, and the animal trade, this danger is greatly increased.

Domesticated, zoo, and shelter animals constitute a potentially high-risk reservoir for zoonoses in high-income countries, but the problem is not limited to poorer parts of the world. Shelter animals, in particular, are at a considerably higher risk due to the intrinsic stress they suffer as a result of their unnatural living arrangements, and hence their sensitivity to infectious diseases.

What can be done to better manage zoonoses’ threat?

The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently working to prevent and manage zoonotic hazards to public health by using a multisectoral and integrated approach that includes epidemiological and laboratory research, risk assessment, and control.

What will happen in the future?

The terrible effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have prompted forecasts that global investment in wildlife virology will rise, along with new surveillance programmes that promise to detect hundreds of novel viruses that could represent a threat to people.

To aid the enormity of the task at hand, future scientists may increasingly turn to machine learning models ––zoonotic risk technologies ––to better understand zoonoses.

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