Cross-species transmission

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Cross-species transmission (also known as spillover or zoonosis) is a phenomenon in which a pathogen originating in one species manages to cross the species barrier and infect a different species. This process is a critical and complex aspect of disease emergence and epidemiology, and it is responsible for many of the most significant and devastating pandemics in human history, including HIV/AIDS, influenza, and COVID-19.

Mechanisms of Cross-Species Transmission[edit | edit source]

Cross-species transmission can occur through a variety of mechanisms. Direct contact between species, such as through biting, mating, or other forms of physical contact, can facilitate the transmission of pathogens. Indirect contact, such as through shared environments or vectors like mosquitoes, can also lead to cross-species transmission. In some cases, a pathogen may undergo genetic recombination or mutation that enables it to infect a new host species.

Factors Influencing Cross-Species Transmission[edit | edit source]

Several factors can influence the likelihood of cross-species transmission. These include the genetic similarity between the original host species and the new host species, the population density and behavior of both species, and the characteristics of the pathogen itself. Environmental factors, such as changes in land use or climate, can also play a role by altering the interactions between species or the survival of pathogens in the environment.

Implications for Public Health[edit | edit source]

Cross-species transmission has significant implications for public health. Many emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, meaning they originated in animals. Monitoring and controlling diseases in animal populations is therefore a critical component of public health efforts. Additionally, understanding the mechanisms and factors that facilitate cross-species transmission can help in predicting and preventing future disease outbreaks.

See Also[edit | edit source]


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD