Pathogen Jumped from Humans to Rabbits in 1976

This article was originally posted on RealClearScience.

Zoonotic diseases, such as the plague and Ebola virus, jump from animals to humans. Often, but not always, such interspecies transmission occurs following mutations in the pathogen’s genome that make it more suitable for targeting a new host. But, infectious disease is not a one-way street. This same evolutionary process also makes possible “reverse zoonosis” (more properly dubbed zooanthroponosis) — i.e., the transmission of disease from humans to animals. Continue reading

H7N9: The Next Influenza Pandemic?

This article was originally published on RealClearScience.

Since May of this year, 440 Chinese people have been infected with a new strain of influenza subtype H7N9, and 122 of them have died. Though the case-fatality rate suggested by this data is greatly inflated by asymptomatic and mild (and hence, unreported) cases, a new analysis in Trends in Microbiology suggests that the virus has the potential to become the next influenza pandemic. Continue reading