From SARS to swine flu, and Ebola to Zika, a succession of disease outbreaks has spread alarm in an increasingly interconnected world. These high profile disease outbreaks over recent years has led researchers to question where these diseases come from, how they should be tackled, and how modern lifestyles and our interaction with the environment influence the dynamics of these diseases.
Our theme issue journal Philosophical Transactions B has recently published a series of issues looking at some of these questions.
One thing that many emerging and endemic diseases have in common is their origin in wild or domesticated animals. They therefore shine a spotlight on human-animal interactions, and raise important questions about the underlying environmental and socio-economic processes – including climate change, land-use change and urbanisation – which may be driving animal-to-human (zoonotic) disease transmission. Focusing on case studies from Africa, this theme issue discusses the complex interactions at play, and interrogates the increasingly popular One Health movement which promotes an integrated, holistic approach to health.
Is there a way to simultaneously advance conservation and human health, especially in low- and middle-income countries? That goal has attracted considerable recent attention among biologists, land managers, public health practitioners, and even policy makers. One major focus of this debate has surrounded the suggestion that biodiversity conservation may systematically decrease infectious disease risk for diseases carried by wildlife through specific ecological mechanisms. Yet the generality of any such mechanism – and its utility for conservation policy – remains unclear. In this theme issue we address this question with original research and reviews, including on specific infectious disease systems such as malaria, schistosomiasis, and Lyme disease. We identify both strong promise and serious limitations for the use of conservation as a public health benefit.
This issue presents a spectrum of original research, reviews and opinion articles to enhance the biological, epidemiological, clinical and operational knowledge-base of Ebola Virus Disease. Articles highlight the most significant scientific advances made: the development of a safe and highly effective vaccine; and the use of technologies not previously available during Ebola outbreaks, for example real-time mathematical modelling. The articles also highlight the major missed opportunity to advance knowledge of both clinical management and the effectiveness of different interventions. Despite almost 30,000 cases with a fatality risk of approximately 70%, remarkably little progress was made in research regarding the control and treatment of Ebola.
We spoke to two of the Guest Editors of the issue to find out more.
Image credit: NIAID
Browse more health and disease theme issues.
We welcome applications for future theme issues in this field.