Research: Intensive agriculture increases epidemic risk

Intensive agriculture increases the risk of epidemics. This conclusion was made by scientists from Bath Universities, a study of which was published in the journal PNAS.

Excessive use of antibiotics, a large number of animals, and low genetic diversity caused by intensive farming methods increase the likelihood that pathogenic microorganisms will become a serious risk to public health, the researchers said.

In a new work, researchers examined the evolution of the livestock-borne Campylobacter jejuni bacterium, which is the leading cause of gastroenteritis in high-income countries. The bacterium is transmitted to people from eating contaminated meat and poultry and causes bloody diarrhea, and is also highly resistant to antibiotics used in agriculture.

Scientists examined the genetic evolution of the pathogen and found that bacterial strains specific for cattle appeared simultaneously with a sharp increase in the number of cattle in the 20th century.

“Over the past few decades, we have observed several viruses and pathogenic bacteria that have been transmitted between humans and animals. For example, HIV appeared in monkeys, H5N1 (bird flu) was transmitted to us from birds, and the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the causative agent of COVID-19, was transmitted to humans from bats. Our work shows that changing the environment and expanding contacts with farm animals caused the spread of bacterial infections to humans”.

Sam Sheppard, lead author of the study

Previously, scientists found that a new type of coronavirus can infect almost all mammals.