We use our own cookies and third parties ones to offer our services and collect statistical data. If you continue browsing the internet you accept them. More information


Deforestation, key in the spread of the coronavirus

@Photo:Jordi Bas

Species like bats come to live with humans when they are expelled from their habitats

Globalization and socioeconomic changes are two other major causes of the origin of the coronavirus

Deforestation of the forests and jungles of the Earth, in addition to causing the disappearance of species, has a negative impact on human health. The destruction of ecosystems (that is, the impact of man) is one of the reasons why unknown viruses appear that can infect the population. Although there is still a lot of ignorance about covid-19 (the new Chinese coronavirus that, as of February 14, has already caused nearly 1,400 deaths and around 64,000 infections), the alterations in ecosystems could be one of the multiple causes of its appearance.

"In the case of covid-19, the loss of 30% of the forest area of ​​Southeast Asia in the last 40 years has influenced. When we destroy forest mass it is to put in place human settlements. And a part of the wild fauna that he was there, he happens to stay in these environments, "explains Jordi Serra-Cobo, a biologist from the Department of Evolutionary Biology, Ecology and Environmental Sciences and the Institute of Research on Biodiversity (Irbio) of the University of Barcelona (UB). When their natural habitat disappears, some species find refuge in human buildings and come into contact with the population. One of these species is bats.

"The loss of 30% of the forest area of ​​Southeast Asia in 40 years has influenced the appearance of the new coronavirus" Jordi Serra-Cobo, Biologist at the Institute for Biodiversity Research at the University of Barcelona (UB).

These mammals are precisely the origin of the contagion of the current coronavirus epidemic. The covid-19, as in the SARS of 2002, made the jump from the bat to the human being. "Bats, of which there are 1,300 species, are the group of mammals that harbor the greatest number of coronaviruses. They represent 20% of all mammals and are virus reservoirs," says Serra-Cobo. In addition, "environmental disturbances" cause "stress" in bats, something that "appears to cause more viruses in the saliva, urine, and feces" of these animals.

This expert clarifies that although bats are the group of mammals that have the most viruses, in Catalonia it is "very difficult" to transmit diseases. "All species that eat insects, like birds and bats, do us a favor, they are necessary. Also, in the West, unlike in China, people do not eat bats and they do not live inside our houses, but under rooftops, "he says. So the risk of virus transmission from these mammals is low here.

A good example of how ecosystem disturbances generate infections is the current dengue epidemic in Latin America. "The burning of forests in the Amazon jungle to make fields of crops and human populations causes, in addition to a loss of habitat, that there are pools of water and, in them, many mosquitoes. This increases the possibility of epidemics transmitted by these insects such as dengue, "says Serra-Cobo. "This dengue epidemic is directly related to mosquitoes and habitat loss," he adds.
Other causes

In just two decades, mankind has witnessed three epidemics of three different coronaviruses: the SARS of 2002, the MERS of 2009 and the current covid-19. The trips facilitate the dissemination of the same. Diseases have become global, viruses travel. This is another reason why the new Chinese coronavirus has spread: globalization.

But there are also socioeconomic causes. In the case of SARS, the civet (a mammal similar to a cat) was the intermediate host between the bat and the human being. In covid-19, it is suspected (but has not yet been confirmed) that the host has been the pangolin. This mammal of the toothless order is highly protected in China and there is a lot of traffic around it. It is in danger of extinction, it is highly valued gastronomically and consumed by people of high social class. "With China's socioeconomic growth, more people have money and can eat pangolin. Therefore, the risk of contagion increases," concludes Serra-Cobo.

Source: El periódico