Climate change will increase virus swapping between species, boosting viral outbreaks


Image: Microscopic view of a virus. Credit: US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

A new climate change study is the first of its kind to predict how global warming will increase virus swapping between species.

Climate change could, over the next 50 years, cause more than 15,000 new cases of mammals to transmit viruses to other mammals, according to a study published in Nature.

The article, published on April 28, follows the likelihood that the Covid pandemic started when a previously unknown coronavirus passed from a wild animal to a human.

The predicted rise in viruses moving between species could trigger more outbreaks, posing a serious threat to human health, the study warns.

The authors write that they “predict that species will aggregate in new combinations at high elevations, in biodiversity hotspots, and in areas of high human population density in Asia and Africa, driving the novel cross-species transmission of their viruses an estimated 4,000 times.

“Because of their unique dispersal capacity, bats account for the majority of novel viral sharing, and are likely to share viruses along evolutionary pathways that will facilitate future emergence in humans.

“Surprisingly, we find that this ecological transition may already be underway, and holding warming under two-degrees celsius within the century will not reduce future viral sharing.”

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Written by

Fergal MacErlean

Originally from Dublin, Fergal is based on the eastern Costa del Sol and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at