Invasive Species, Fellow Travelers, Zoonoses

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Invasive Species, Fellow Travelers, Zoonoses

ag. 3, 2020, 1:57pm

Invasive Species, Fellow Travelers, Zoonoses:
Prevention, Containment, Eradication & Management

Preventing a pandemic is 500 times cheaper than responding to one
Timothy Huzar | July 31, 2020

New research indicates that responding to a pandemic, such as the current spread of COVID-19, is 500 times more expensive than taking preventive measures...a worldwide shift toward preventive action is necessary if we are to avoid the profound damage wrought by the global spread of disease

Zoonotic disease...spread from nonhuman animals to humans...

Points of contact...Prime among these is land conversion, which can involve the deforestation of rainforests...The policy brief also highlights that the global trade in wild animals is a significant driver of human and nonhuman animal contact...

Prevention outweighs response...preventive measures could include expanding programs that monitor the trade in wildlife, ending the wild meat trade, reducing deforestation by 50%, and investing in programs to reduce the transmission of disease from wildlife to domestic, farmed animals...


Andrew P. Dobson et al. 2020. Ecology and economics for pandemic prevention (policy brief). Science 24 Jul 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6502, pp. 379-381. DOI: 10.1126/science.abc3189

For a century, two new viruses per year have spilled from their natural hosts into humans... The MERS, SARS, and 2009 H1N1 epidemics, and the HIV and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemics, testify to their damage. Zoonotic viruses infect people directly most often when they handle live primates, bats, and other wildlife (or their meat) or indirectly from farm animals such as chickens and pigs. The risks are higher than increasingly intimate associations between humans and wildlife disease reservoirs accelerate the potential for viruses to spread globally. Here, we assess the cost of monitoring and preventing disease spillover driven by the unprecedented loss and fragmentation of tropical forests and by the burgeoning wildlife trade. Currently, we invest relatively little toward preventing deforestation and regulating wildlife trade, despite well-researched plans that demonstrate a high return on their investment in limiting zoonoses and conferring many other benefits. As public funding in response to COVID-19 continues to rise, our analysis suggests that the associated costs of these preventive efforts would be substantially less than the economic and mortality costs of responding to these pathogens once they have emerged...

Reducing Deforestation...
Wildlife Trade Spillover...
Early Detection and Control...
Farmed Animal Spillover...

Editat: ag. 3, 2020, 2:45pm

China is also blatantly sending seeds to citizens which so far seem to be innocuous but could just as easily be threatening. If you've received them please don't plant them!

ETA - I know this sounds like a hoax but it is not. This is an article from NPR and there are plenty more from other sources.

ag. 3, 2020, 3:53pm

>2 mamzel: I can't find the article but according to what I read the seed packets may be a case of what is termed "brushing".

The deal is that if I am a less than honest seller on something like Amazon I can just send you something (you haven't been hacked or scammed and you don't wind up paying for whatever is sent), provide proof to the hosting site that I did send something to you and then, because you "bought" my item, I can post a fake review of whatever it is that I'm selling raving about whatever it is that I'm selling (it doesn't have to be seeds it can be anything I claim) and attach your name to the review as a verified purchaser. According to the article, a number of people who have reported receiving these seeds have stated the "purchase" label attached to the seed packets indicates a purchase of things like jewelry.

ag. 3, 2020, 11:50pm

Americans are planting mystery seeds the government has warned against (Guardian)

Americans have been planting mystery seeds which appeared to be sent from China, unaware of government warnings to dispose of the suspicious shipments. Four people who have come forward after apparently randomly receiving the seeds have since contacted their local agricultural departments to collect the resulting mystery plants – or in some cases, fruitless seeds...

ag. 4, 2020, 3:02am

ag. 5, 2020, 7:35am

The pet trade is increasingly responsible for introduction of new species (and their pathogens)--everywhere, but especially in Florida because of the wholesale trade and the accommodating environment.

Below is story on pet turtles. I once kept aquaria and the last fish to pass was a Mexican blind cavefish, a characin. That little guy must have been ancient in fish-years by the time he passed, allowing me to finally shut down my operation. I offered him at one point to Toledo Zoo, which had a great display of the species, but, of course, they declined, fearing pathogens... I fish, but somehow couldn't dispatch my pet, certainly couldn't release him to the wild, and so I waited...and waited...

Turtle dumping: Red-eared sliders are invading native turtle habitats in Ontario
The turtles we keep as pets don’t belong in the wild
Madigan Cotterill | July 19, 2020

...In Ontario, seven of the eight native turtle species are considered to be at risk by the federal government. So the last thing our turtles need is another threat — like an invader — but here one is.

The red-eared slider is the most common non-native species of turtle in Ontario, and they are being increasingly found in wetlands and waterways, says the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTCC). Originally from central and south-central areas of the United States, the red-eared slider is now a common sighting throughout Ontario, especially in the Greater Toronto Area. So how did they get here? Turtle dumping.

...As the most common species of turtle to have as a pet, red-eared sliders are often purchased when they are about the size of a Canadian toonie ($2 coin). Not all owners are aware of the commitment needed to properly take care of a turtle, or mindful of how large they can be. In captivity, red-eared sliders can live up to 40 years and reach 12 inches in length.

...When the turtle becomes too big, or the owner no longer wants to keep it, individuals seek out ways to get rid of their pet. Surrendering a turtle properly, however, can be difficult.

...Now found in every state in the U.S., all provinces in Canada and 64 countries, (conservation biologist Marc) Dupuis-Desormeaux says that red-eared sliders are being released constantly into the wild.

..Kristen Janke, a veterinarian at the OTCC says there has been at least one confirmed case of herpes virus in a red-eared slider brought into the centre. “Whenever we have a new species coming into an area the question is always, ‘What are you bringing with you?...Usually the answer is disease and parasite.”

...“We know they are invading the natural habitat here in Ontario because we are actually seeing them being brought into the centre after being hit by cars or injuries out in the wild,” says Janke. “Because they are adults, we know that they have either been released or are successfully living years out there, like our native turtles.”

...the goal is to maintain healthy populations of the native turtles we already have. “By introducing a new one (turtle), we are just adding more threat that could reduce our native populations even more than we already have,” says Janke. She says that the OTCC is making a real difference for native species, and attention needs to be put on reducing the threats native turtles already face, not introducing new ones...

ag. 5, 2020, 5:54pm

They'red invasive in Europe too.

Ontario's fairly close to their "natural" distribution area though. Gotta wonder why they couldn't spread there on their own.

Editat: ag. 6, 2020, 9:23am

>7 Kuiperdolin: Though they could survive our summers, I suspect cold winters in n US and Canada (= ice and snow cover) have kept released Red-eared Sliders at bay until recently: "Red-eared sliders do not hibernate, but actually brumate; while they become less active, they do occasionally rise to the surface for food or air. ... In the wild, red-eared sliders brumate over the winter at the bottoms of ponds or shallow lakes. (Wikipedia)

Reportedly, northern turtle species are better able to survive long periods under ice and snow, e.g., breathe through skin (incl. "butt-breathe") and hard-shelled spp even buffer built-up acids with calcium from their shells. "Under the water there is no respite until the spring thaw. Oxygen continues to be depleted with no replenishment while painted and snapping turtles continue to mobilize calcium reserves in their shells to buffer acids. Winter becomes a marathon endurance trial, and only the hardiest survive it." ( )

USGS has a nice page on distribution of the Red-eared Slider, whose "indigenous range broadly covers the midwestern states and extending as far east as West Virginia and a disjunct (relict) population in southern Ohio, as far west as eastern New Mexico, and as far south as south of the Rio Grande River into northeastern Mexico...(see map)

ag. 12, 2020, 7:55am

>1 margd: contd.

Why deforestation and extinctions make pandemics more likely
Researchers are redoubling efforts to understand links between biodiversity and emerging diseases — and use that information to predict and stop future outbreaks.
Jeff Tollefson | 07 August 2020

...Last week, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) hosted an online workshop on the nexus between biodiversity loss and emerging diseases. The organization’s goal now is to produce an expert assessment of the science underlying that connection ahead of a United Nations summit in New York that’s planned for September, where governments are expected to make new commitments to preserve biodiversity.

Others are calling for a more wide-ranging course of action. On 24 July, an interdisciplinary group of scientists, including virologists, economists and ecologists, published an essay in Science2, arguing that governments can help reduce the risk of future pandemics by controlling deforestation and curbing the wildlife trade, which involves the sale and consumption of wild — and often rare — animals that can host dangerous pathogens.

Most efforts to prevent the spread of new diseases tend to focus on vaccine development, early diagnosis and containment, but that’s like treating the symptoms without addressing the underlying cause, says Peter Daszak, a zoologist at the non-governmental organization EcoHealth Alliance in New York, who chaired the IPBES workshop. He says COVID-19 has helped to clarify the need to investigate biodiversity’s role in pathogen transmission.

...One message that the IPBES’s upcoming report is likely to deliver is that scientists and policymakers need to treat the rural frontier more holistically, addressing issues of public health, the environment and sustainable development in tandem. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many scientists and conservationists have emphasized curbing the wildlife trade — an industry worth an estimated US$20 billion annually in China, where the first coronavirus infections appeared. China has temporarily suspended its trade. But (Peter Daszak, a zoologist at the non-governmental organization EcoHealth Alliance in New York, who chaired the IPBES workshop and co-authored the Science essay >1 margd:) says the industry is just one piece in a larger puzzle that involves hunting, livestock, land use and ecology.

“Ecologists should be working with infectious-disease researchers, public-health workers and medics to track environmental change, assess the risk of pathogens crossing over and reduce risky human activities,” he says.

Daszak was an author of last month’s essay in Science, which argued that governments could substantially reduce the risk of future pandemics such as COVID-19 by investing in efforts to curb deforestation and the wildlife trade, as well as in efforts to monitor, prevent and control new virus outbreaks from wildlife and livestock. The team estimated that the cost of these actions would ring in at $22 billion to $33 billion annually, including $19.4 billion for ending trade in wild meat in China — a step that not all experts think is desirable or necessary — and up to $9.6 billion to help curb tropical deforestation. The total investment would be two orders of magnitude less than the $5.6-trillion price tag estimated for the COVID-19 pandemic, the team estimates...

ag. 13, 2020, 2:03am

Christopher J O'Bryan et al. 2020. Conservation epidemiology of predators and scavengers to reduce zoonotic risk (comment). The Lancet Planetary Health. Volume 4, ISSUE 8, e304-e305, August 01, 2020. DOI:

...decline (of predators and scavengers), coupled with expanding environmental destruction, is known to be a strong driver of zoonotic spillover.

...Predator and scavenger populations are declining and it is predicted that their numbers will continue to drop in the next 20 years due to overharvesting, habitat loss, and conflict with humans.

The reduction in the number of predators can increase the risk of zoonotic transmission by maximising the prevalence of infection when transmission depends on the contact rate within the prey population...

Moreover, zoonotic risk in humans is likely to be amplified in areas that are shared with wildlife....

The decline of predator and scavenger numbers can also increase disease risk in humans through a reduction in competitive exclusion, the act of outcompeting disease hosts for resources.

While predators and scavengers play a crucial role in maintaining ecosystem structure and reducing disease risk, human activities amplify risk when handling these species and reducing their populations in natural environments. This points to a dire need to not only uphold increasing review and regulation of markets and medicines that contain wildlife, but also to promote predator and scavenger conservation and habitat retention in shared landscapes...a conservation epidemiological approach that embraces the integration of ecology and the measurement of the downstream effect of conservation action on disease transmission dynamics at the human-wildlife interface.

Conservation epidemiological research will enable discovery on the impact of predator and scavenger conservation action on the epidemiology of zoonotic spillover at the human, wildlife, and livestock interface. Targeted to different stages of the wildlife market chain, conservation epidemiology will inform risk-based surveillance and control of pathogens of zoonotic potential and deliver an evidence base for public health policy that considers the preservation and protection of wildlife known to be reservoirs or regulators of zoonoses to reduce the risk of human exposure.

ag. 19, 2020, 9:35am

Global map of newly emerging, re-emerging/resurging, deliberately emerging(!) diseases:

David M.Morens and Anthony S.Fauci. 2020. Emerging Pandemic Diseases: How We Got To COVID-19. Cell (online 15 August 2020,

In Press, Journal Pre-proof.


Infectious diseases prevalent in humans and animals are caused by pathogens that once emerged from other animal hosts. In addition to these established infections, new infectious diseases periodically emerge. In extreme cases they may cause pandemics such as COVID-19; in other cases, dead end infections or smaller epidemics result. Established diseases may also re-emerge, for example by extending geographically or by becoming more transmissible or more pathogenic. Disease emergence reflects dynamic balances and imbalances, within complex globally-distributed ecosystems comprised of humans, animals, pathogens, and the environment. Understanding these variables is a necessary step in controlling future devastating disease emergences.

Editat: ag. 20, 2020, 8:03am

Sure hope African countries in home range approved introduction of genetically modified mosquito in US. Because males survive, I assume some day it will get back to home range. African countries should have opportunity to consent, or not, after weighing benefits to human health against ecological effects, if any. (Australia similarly proposed daughterless carp. Carp are a major source of protein in Asia. Any permanent change in germline of an invasive species should have consent of authorities in home range, IMHO.)

Map: predicted range of Africa's mosquito, Aedes aegypti and Asia's Aedes albopictus in the United States, 2017

750 million genetically engineered (daughterless A. aegypti) mosquitoes approved for release in Florida Keys
Sandee LaMotte | August 19, 2020

A plan to release over 750 million genetically modified mosquitoes into the Florida Keys in 2021 and 2022 received final approval from local authorities, against the objection of many local residents and a coalition of environmental advocacy groups. The proposal had already won state and federal approval.

...The mosquito, named OX5034, has been altered to produce female offspring that die in the larval stage, well before hatching and growing large enough to bite and spread disease. Only the female mosquito bites for blood, which she needs to mature her eggs. Males feed only on nectar, and are thus not a carrier for disease.

The mosquito is also approved to be released into Harris County, Texas, beginning in 2021...

ag. 21, 2020, 5:29pm

Munyaradzi Makoni. 2020. Africa's invasive species problem. The Lancet Planetary Health. Volume 4, ISSUE 8, e317-e319, August 01, 2020. DOI:

Invasive species are among the top threats to biodiversity globally and are reported to be affecting livelihoods in 70% of African countries. How much progress is being made in their control and eradication in African nations?

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) Aichi Target 9 was signed by all African nations in 2011. Signatory countries committed to identify and prioritise control and eradication measures for priority invasive species. However, as the world, gears up to adopt a post-2020 Biodiversity Framework this year, invasive species are reported to be adversely affecting livelihoods in more than 70% of African countries.

...Diverse native communities sometimes function as 'enemy reservoirs' for parasites and diseases that keep down the numbers of invaders...

Editat: ag. 22, 2020, 11:15am

Genomic analysis reveals many animal species may be vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection
Lisa Howard, UC Davis | August 21, 2020

...scientists used genomic analysis to compare the main cellular receptor for the virus in humans—angiotensin converting enzyme-2, or ACE2—in 410 different species of vertebrates, including birds, fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

...About 40 percent of the species potentially susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 are classified as "threatened" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and may be especially vulnerable to human-to-animal transmission...

...Several critically endangered primate species, such as the Western lowland gorilla, Sumatran orangutan and Northern white-cheeked gibbon, are predicted to be at very high risk of infection by SARS-CoV-2 via their ACE2 receptor.

Other animals flagged as high risk include marine mammals such as gray whales and bottlenose dolphins, as well as Chinese hamsters.

...Because of the potential for animals to contract the novel coronavirus from humans, and vice versa, institutions including the National Zoo and the San Diego Zoo, which both contributed genomic material to the study, have strengthened programs to protect both animals and humans...


Joana Damas et al. 2020. Broad host range of SARS-CoV-2 predicted by comparative and structural analysis of ACE2 in vertebrates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2020). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2010146117 ,

(See Fig 1 and 2)

set. 22, 2020, 4:10pm

‘Mussel-bola’ Could Be Spreading. Maybe Now You’ll Pay Attention.
Marion Renault | Sept. 22, 2020

New findings suggest a previously unknown virus may play a role in the sudden death of many freshwater mussels in recent years.

...In a study published earlier this month in Scientific Reports, the research group used genetic testing to identify viruses in healthy and diseased mussels. One novel virus, they found, was 11 times more likely to be present in sick mussels.

...Federal estimates suggest more than 70 percent of North America’s freshwater mussels have been driven to endangerment or extinction. While pollution, habitat destruction and other human-caused hazards can explain some of that loss, the sudden die-offs have remained thoroughly unexplained.

Jordan C. Richard et al. 2020. Mass mortality in freshwater mussels (Actinonaias pectorosa) in the Clinch River, USA, linked to a novel densovirus. Vol.:(0123456789) Scientific Reports | (2020) 10:14498 | 10 p.

Freshwater mussels (order Unionida) are important members of freshwater biomes, providing ecosystem services such as water filtration, nutrient cycling and deposition, physical habitat stabilization, and food web enhancement. Mussels filter-feed on bacteria, suspended algae, detritus, phytoplankton and zooplankton, removing suspended particulate matter from the water column and from interstitial spaces within the substrate. During periods of low summer discharge in small rivers, mussel assemblages are capable of circulating water as it flows over them, leading to multiple cycles of filtration that can strongly influence ecosystem processes, even at moderate mussel densities4. Unionids are also gaining attention for their ability to filter out chemical contaminants and water-borne pathogens.Unfortunately, the order Unionida contains an exceptional number of imperiled taxa.

...Densoviruses cause lethal epidemic disease in invertebrates, including shrimp, cockroaches, crickets, moths, crayfish, and sea stars...filter feeding bivalves can remove viral pathogens from suspension in the water column ...introductions of exotic species and their pathogens, climate change, and ecologically induced physiological stressors have all been implicated as predisposing factors for infectious disease in wildlife...

Editat: oct. 9, 2020, 9:11am

Hundreds of mink die from coronavirus at Wisconsin farm
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has deployed a team to ensure it is contained.
WISN Updated: 5:16 PM CDT Oct 8, 2020

...Medford, in Taylor County...There are dozens of mink farms in Wisconsin.

...The UW-Madison Veterinary Diagnostic Lab was on the lookout for COVID spreading to farm animals -- especially mink and ferrets, appear to be very susceptible to catching the virus from humans...Dr. Keith Paulson with the UW-Madison Veterinary School Diagnostic Laboratory. "There's significant mortality in the mink. The people that work on the farm, there's three people that work on the farm, they've seemed to recover, they had mild to moderate clinical signs."

Farm workers are composting the dead mink on site...The farm is now under quarantine.

Last month, as many as 8,000 mink died from the coronavirus at a farm in Utah.

Veterinary medicine researchers are working on a COVID vaccine for mink, as well as one for dogs and cats.

They said the best way to keep animals from contracting the virus is to keep humans from getting it in the first place.


COVID-19 outbreak kills thousands of minks on Utah fur farms
Vincent Barone | October 9, 2020

A coronavirus outbreak has killed (8,000) minks in Utah fur farms over a ten-day window beginning in late September, forcing cautionary quarantines at nine farms in the state.

The virus was likely transferred from workers to the animals, though there are no signs that the minks have infected any humans, according to Dr. Dean Taylor, the state veterinarian investigating the outbreak.

“We genuinely don’t feel like there is much of a risk going from the mink to the people,” Taylor told the Associated Press.

As many as 8,000 minks have perished during the outbreak. Fur from the dead infected minks is still used commercially. The pelts are processed to remove the virus before being used for coats or other clothing accessories, according to the Fur Commission USA, a trade group.

No animals have been euthanized over their infections, according to Taylor...

Editat: oct. 9, 2020, 5:37am

Sounds like mink and sheep farmers should be concerned?
Zoos, where significant human-mammal interaction, e.g., great apes?
Maybe in wild, endangered colonial species? Again, great apes?

SARS-CoV-2 may be able to infect a significant number of mammals
Timothy Huzar | October 8, 2020

...There are already reports of infections in domestic cats, as well as lions and tigers.

...In total, the researchers found evidence that 26 animal species that regularly come into contact with people may be susceptible to infection with SARS-CoV-2.

In particular, they found that the binding process between the virus and the host ACE2 protein in sheep and great apes is likely to be as strong as it is in humans.

Sheep are a particular concern, given their prevalence in agricultural settings in many parts of the world.

The study also found that most fish, birds, and reptiles are unlikely to be susceptible to the virus.

...Given the likelihood of the virus transmitting to far more species than it is currently known to infect, the researchers call for new guidance on the monitoring and handling of animals by humans...


S. D. Lam et al. 2020. SARS-CoV-2 spike protein predicted to form complexes with host receptor protein orthologues from a broad range of mammals.
Scientific Reports volume 10, Article number: 16471 (Oct 5, 2020)


SARS-CoV-2 has a zoonotic origin and was transmitted to humans via an undetermined intermediate host, leading to infections in humans and other mammals. To enter host cells, the viral spike protein (S-protein) binds to its receptor, ACE2, and is then processed by TMPRSS2. Whilst receptor binding contributes to the viral host range, S-protein:ACE2 complexes from other animals have not been investigated widely. To predict infection risks, we modelled S-protein:ACE2 complexes from 215 vertebrate species, calculated changes in the energy of the complex caused by mutations in each species, relative to human ACE2, and correlated these changes with COVID-19 infection data. We also analysed structural interactions to better understand the key residues contributing to affinity. We predict that mutations are more detrimental in ACE2 than TMPRSS2. Finally, we demonstrate phylogenetically that human SARS-CoV-2 strains have been isolated in animals. Our results suggest that SARS-CoV-2 can infect a broad range of mammals, but few fish, birds or reptiles. Susceptible animals could serve as reservoirs of the virus, necessitating careful ongoing animal management and surveillance.

...In general we see a high infection risk for most mammals, with a notable exception for all non-placental mammals. (e.g., kangaroos, possums)

...As shown in previous studies, and supported by experimental data, many primates are predicted to be at high risk... In agricultural settings, camels, cows, sheep, goats and horses... In domestic settings, dogs..., cats..., hamsters..., and rabbits... Whilst, zoological animals that come into contact with humans, such as pandas, leopards and bears, are also at risk of infection...Importantly, mice and rats do not appear to be hamsters and ferrets are being used as model organisms for human COVID-19. Of the 35 birds tested only a handful, including the blue tit, show an infection risk. Similarly, out of 72 fish in this study,...most have no susceptibility to infection. Those susceptible include the common carp, turbot and Nile tilapia. Of the 14 reptiles and amphibians investigated, only turtle and crocodile show any risk.

...Fig 6. Mammals that humans come into contact with that are at risk of infection by SARS-CoV-2. Twenty-six mammals are categorised into domestic, agricultural or zoological settings. Numbers represent the change in binding energy (ΔΔG) of the S-protein:ACE2.

...Humans are likely to come into contact with 26 of these species in domestic, agricultural or zoological settings (Fig. 6). Of particular concern are these animals are farmed and come into close contact with humans. Indeed, SARS-CoV-2 is already responsible for infections in various animal species. SARS-CoV-2 genomes... have been isolated from natural infections in zoo lions and tigers..., companion animals including cats and dogs...and following widespread outbreaks in multiple mink farms in the Netherlands resulting in mass culling... In most cases natural infections have been linked to human infections supporting cross-species transmission and high levels of exposure.... To date, minks provide the only well supported example of sustained intraspecies transmission with secondary zoonotic transmission back to humans. Consistently, we predict American mink to be at risk of infection by SARS-CoV-2... Since we performed this analysis, in vivo studies have confirmed that cows... and rabbits... are susceptible to infection by SARS-CoV-2, in agreement with our predictions.

...In summary, our work is not aiming to provide an absolute measure of risk of infection. Rather, it should be considered an efficient method to screen a large number of animals and suggest possible susceptibility, and thereby guide further studies. Any predictions of possible risk should be confirmed by experimental studies and computationally expensive, but more robust methods, like molecular dynamics.

The ability of SARS-CoV-2 to infect host cells and cause COVID-19, sometimes resulting in severe disease, ultimately depends on a multitude of other host-virus protein interactions40. While we do not investigate them all in this study, our results suggest that SARS-CoV-2 could indeed infect a broad range of mammals. As there is a possibility of creating new reservoirs of the virus, we should now consider how to identify such transmission early and to mitigate against such risks. In particular, farm animals and other animals living in close contact with humans could be monitored, protected where possible and managed accordingly

oct. 12, 2020, 5:14am

>16 margd: Good luck with containing the COVID-19 in mink. Danish authorities are currently in the process of killing hundred of thousands of mink in affected mink farms.

oct. 12, 2020, 5:42am

The rats evicted from paradise (BBC)

Palmyra had been an isolated and tranquil Pacific atoll, until a 20th-Century invasion of black rats arrived, setting the whole atoll’s ecology hurtling down a different path...

oct. 12, 2020, 7:59am

>18 bnielsen: Apparently, veterinarians are working on vaccines, so I suspect mink, sheep, (and companion animals?) will have protection sooner rather than later. (Fish hatcheries use vaccines against a number of pathogens, when they are serious and common.)

(Creepy that pelts were harvested from euthanized mink. I can't imagine that would be a selling point for any garment!)

oct. 13, 2020, 8:23am

In the face of a global pandemic, how can conservation efforts reduce the chance that poaching will spread disease?
As the Covid-19 pandemic decimates tourism, poaching is on the rise in Africa. The search is on for alternative ways to meet communities' basic needs.
Wendee Nicole | Oct 9, 2020

Wild Animals and Zoonotic Disease
...“Many people don’t know dangers of eating wildlife off the forest,” says Philip Muruthi, AWF’s vice president for species conservation and science. “This is how Ebola came; this is how we are told Covid came. It is our duty to educate people.” And often, when someone snares or traps a wild animal, it gets sold on the market — putting more people at risk...

Are Bans the Answer?
...those who work closely with frontline communities say bans are reactionary, short-sighted and extremely inequitable to local and indigenous people whose livelihoods have already suffered greatly from the loss of tourism dollars and who depend on hunting for food. Bans on wet markets not only won’t work, they say, but will push wildlife trade underground, where it’s harder to track.

Involving Local Communities
...Where wildlife populations provide other economic and social benefits — whether tourism or a legal game meat trade — locals are motivated to engage in efforts to combat poaching and illicit trade.

...“(Bushmeat) in a protected area has a fairly high value. It’s still going to be an asset someone else will exploit if you don’t protect it,” adds (Peter Lindsey, director of Wildlife Conservation Network’s Lion Recovery Fund). “You need a combination of carrot and stick approaches. … It’s about trying to develop projects that tackle this issue from multiple sides. One side is protecting the resource. Another side is making sure that your immediate neighbors are allied with conservation efforts and that their basic needs are covered.”

Poacher or Protector
...Reinventing African conservation with little to no tourism, at least for the foreseeable future, will be no small feat. Governments are scrambling to find replacement income to keep past gains and not lose ground — not only with wildlife, but also with communities who had, up to now, benefited from wildlife and tourism. By all accounts, things will likely get worse before they get better. “Some of the wildlife agencies and NGOs had some funding reserves, but those are going to start running out pretty quickly,” says Lindsey. “We do expect that while 2020 has been tough, that 2021 will be tougher.”

...“The solution to addressing poaching lies in communities — involving them as game guards, making sure they benefit from wildlife, that the costs of living with wildlife are minimized, and ensuring they have alternative ways of making a living other than poaching,” says (Dilys Roe, a principal researcher for the International Institute for Environment and Development). Because in the end, she says, “whether they are a poacher or a protector of wildlife comes down to the balance of incentives.”

oct. 15, 2020, 12:43pm

Daniel G. Streicker and Amy T. Gilbert. 2020. Contextualizing bats as viral reservoirs (Perspective). Science 09 Oct 2020: Vol. 370, Issue 6513, pp. 172-173. DOI: 10.1126/science.abd4559

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is the latest in a distressing tally of viral infections—including Ebola, Nipah, rabies, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)—that have evolutionary origins or epidemiological associations with bats. This seeming preponderance of zoonoses has propelled bats from biomedical obscurity to the forefront of global health. Immunological traits have been proposed to allow bats to control viruses differently from other animals...

...Viral emergence from bats is largely unpredictable and unpreventable. Solutions require qualitative and quantitative expansions over current practice in bat research, which rarely considers heterogeneities among individuals, populations, and species. This variability can reveal the drivers and phenotypic importance of bat-virus interactions as well as whether they generalize in ways that might aid surveillance or management of zoonotic threats. Given the costs of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for an ambitious research agenda is more evident now than ever.

nov. 5, 2020, 7:11am

Canada's first case of rare H1N2 swine flu variant confirmed in central Alberta
Ashley Joannou | Nov 04, 2020

Canada’s first case of a rare H1N2 swine flu variant in humans has been confirmed in central Alberta.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, and Dr. Keith Lehman, the chief provincial veterinarian, issued a statement Wednesday morning confirming a person tested positive for the rare Influenza A (H1N2)v version of the virus in mid-October but said it appears to be one isolated case and there is no increased risk to Albertans at this time.

H1N2 influenza is known to occur in swine herds around the world, according to the Alberta government website, but is not a food-borne illness associated with eating pork.

...Hinshaw said officials are still investigating the source of the virus but there is no link to slaughterhouses.

She said the virus is not passed easily from person to person and while there have been cases of transmission from close contact between two people, it has not been found to spread in the wider community.

The case is the first of this swine flu variant to be detected in Canada and only the 27th globally since 2005, Hinshaw and Lehman said.


Florian Krammer @florian_krammer | 6:37 AM · Nov 5, 2020:
H1N2 in Alberta: I don't think we need to worry about that.
However, I would feel better if they would find out where the virus came from (e.g. contact to swine).

nov. 5, 2020, 8:51am

Denmark plans to cull up to 17 million mink to stop mutated coronavirus
Reuters and James Fraser, CNN | November 5, 2020

(CNN)Denmark, the world's largest producer of mink furs, plans to cull all mink in the country to contain a mutated form of novel coronavirus.

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Wednesday the decision had been made with a "heavy heart," but it was necessary based on the recommendation of health authorities.

"The virus has mutated in mink. The mutated virus has spread to humans," Frederiksen said.

Statens Serum Institut, the Danish authority based in Copenhagen which deals with infectious diseases, had found five cases of the virus in mink farms and 12 examples in humans that showed reduced sensitivity to antibodies, she said. Allowing the virus to spread could potentially limit the effectiveness of future vaccines...

nov. 14, 2020, 8:12am

Paper posted in extinction thread estimated ~10% of parasites may become extinct due to climate change, but some will move into new or vacated niches, sometimes to detriment of human health. WTO Information Note (below) discusses how human trade can assist movement of pathogens (and parasites).

5 November 2020

The WTO Secretariat has published a new information note about trade issues associated with the spread of diseases of animal origin. The note maps out the international framework in place to address these issues, along with ongoing efforts to ensure safe trade in animals and animal products, including in wildlife.

Key points:

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the risk that animal diseases pose to human health. A 2012 study estimated that some 56 zoonoses (i.e. diseases affecting human health that originate in animals) were together responsible for around 2.5 billion cases of human illness and 2.7 million human deaths a year. The impact of COVID-19 has far eclipsed that of other recent outbreaks of such diseases. Experts warn that zoonotic pandemics may become more frequent due to factors including further environmental degradation, intensive farming practices, and the effects of climate change.

WTO rules recognize the right of WTO members to take measures to protect human, animal and plant health. The Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) underscores their right to take measures to address the health risks arising from the spread of zoonoses through international trade in animals and animal products, including wildlife, while aiming to avoid unjustified trade barriers.

The SPS Agreement strongly encourages WTO members to base their SPS measures on certain international standards. In the area of animal health and zoonoses, it recognizes the standards developed by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

According to both the World Health Organization (WHO) and OIE, the COVID-19 pandemic is being sustained through human-to-human transmission and not through international trade in animals and animal products. Based on currently available information, and with the support of expert advisory groups, the OIE does not recommend that any COVID-19-related sanitary measures be applied to the international movement of live animals or animal products without a justifying risk analysis. Trade in animals and animal products can take place safely if risk reduction measures are applied based on international standards.

Risks associated with trade in animals and animal products, including wildlife, may increase when animal disease risks are not monitored and controlled. The OIE Working Group on Wildlife and other international organizations are examining how better to address sanitary risks linked to wildlife trade. Efforts are also being made to address illegal wildlife trade.

Around 20 per cent of livestock production is lost due to animal diseases every year — leading to an estimated annual economic loss within the sector of about US$ 300 billion. The impact of COVID-19, which primarily affects people, has already dwarfed these figures. Global economic output is projected to shrink by 4.5% in 2020 because of the pandemic, according to estimates by the IMF. As of 6 October 2020, WTO economists expect global trade to contract by 9.2 per cent in 2020.

Recognizing that managing risks related to emerging diseases of animal origin requires multi-sectoral and multi-institutional cooperation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), OIE and WHO are collaborating on a One Health approach, while the WTO houses the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF), a global partnership which helps developing countries to engage in safe trade. Trade in animals and animal products was worth US$ 367.5 billion in 2018, with important implications for livelihoods, food security and nutrition worldwide.

The SPS Committee and other WTO committees provide fora for members to discuss trade measures adopted to address the risk of COVID-19 and other zoonoses, thus helping to ensure that trade measures contribute to enhancing future resilience and prevention. Specific trade concerns related to animal diseases and zoonoses, including emerging diseases, and their effects on trade, account for 35 per cent of all trade concerns raised in the SPS Committee.

...The report concludes that implementing existing guidance and developing more detailed standards and guidance for particular risk factors requires engagement at the international level, and investment to ensure that domestic, regional and global public, veterinary and environmental health systems are well prepared and have a solid basis for collaboration.


World Trade Organization | 3 November 2020.

des. 19, 2020, 6:43am

First case of the coronavirus detected in the wild
An infected wild mink was found in the “immediate vicinity” of a Utah fur farm that had an outbreak, officials say.
Dina Fine Maron | December 14, 2020

....The strain of the virus in the wild mink is “indistinguishable” from that in infected mink on farms around the state, according to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory, the USDA division that conducted the tests.

In the U.S., coronavirus outbreaks have been documented at 16 mink farms in Utah, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Michigan, with the most cases in Utah. But until now, no wild mink cases had been detected, despite ongoing testing of mink, raccoons, skunks, and other animals around farms with infections.

This mink was trapped in the “immediate vicinity of one of the affected farms,” says Utah state veterinarian Dean Taylor, and was the only animal caught in the area to test positive.

“There is currently no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 is circulating or has been established in wild populations surrounding the infected mink farms,” the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) wrote in its alert, using the official name for the virus.

...The USDA says further efforts to prevent spread within the large North American wild mink population are warranted, though it has not announced a strategy for doing so...

feb. 1, 10:09am

Florian Krammer et al. 2021. Pandemic Vaccines: How Are We Going to Be Better Prepared Next Time? Med (N Y). 2020 Dec 18; 1(1): 28–32. Published online 2020 Dec 5. doi: 10.1016/j.medj.2020.11.004

In response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, we are currently witnessing the fastest vaccine development in history. While these vaccines will now make a significant impact on ending the pandemic, they were needed much earlier. Here I discuss how to ensure that vaccines will become available within 3-4 months after a new outbreak.

Overall Strategy
Surveillance and Understanding Pathogenesis
Vaccine Development and Clinical Trials
Correlates of Protection
Vaccine Production Capacity
Phase III Trials and Rollout
Regulatory Considerations

Many measures need to be taken to mitigate or even prevent the next pandemic. These include better surveillance systems, global pandemic response plans that are executed, development of broadly acting antivirals, and further development of diagnostics and non-pharmaceutical interventions. Here, I have focused on the contribution that vaccine development can make on pandemic preparedness. Many points made above might sound familiar. We have implemented some of them for influenza viruses. We have good surveillance systems for influenza viruses, we stockpile vaccines for zoonotic subtypes, we test those vaccines in clinical trials, and we do have a correlate of protection. I strongly believe, and this might be controversial, that if this pandemic had been caused by an influenza virus strain, we would be in a much better position. However, even for influenza virus the system needs to be scaled up and alternative solutions—for example, universal influenza virus vaccines like the ones currently developed by the Collaborative Influenza Vaccine Innovation Centers (CIVICs)—need to be added to the arsenal. In 2017, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was founded with the goal to develop, produce, and trial vaccines against emerging viruses. CEPI supported a strong portfolio including vaccines against MERS-CoV and many new vaccine platforms. CEPI catalyzed the quick development of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines and had the organization been founded 10 years earlier, we would likely already have vaccines on the market now. But CEPIs funding and mandate are limited. The US only recently contributed to it, and the amount was roughly equivalent to the cost of buying one fighter jet. CEPI would be an ideal vehicle for implementing a plan as outlined above, but this would require massive increases in funding and a mandate to create an Über-CEPI. Of course, plans similar to the one outlined above could be implemented using many other platforms and organizational structures as well.

The above plan has many flaws, would cost billions of dollars to implement, and might be entirely unfeasible from a regulatory, political, or technical perspective. It is meant to initiate discussions about how we can protect ourselves better in the future. It is unclear how much its implementation would cost and if governments would be able and willing to pay for it. However, it would not be unreasonable to assume that large international corporations would also have an interest in financing better preparedness, since inevitably they will also suffer huge financial losses from another pandemic. We know that influenza virus pandemics roughly occur four times every hundred years. In addition, we have recently seen the emergence of SARS-CoV-1, MERS-CoV, Nipah virus, and now a SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Close contact with wild animals or livestock is required for zoonotic infections, and the increase in animal farming, hunting, and ecosystem destruction will likely lead to an increase in spillovers in the future. It is clear that the viruses will keep coming, likely at a faster pace. We need to be prepared for the next one.

feb. 9, 10:22am

Interesting read:

The Wild World of Mink and Coronavirus
Mink on the lam and corona’s reverse spillover
Kate Golden | Jan 7 2021

...Maybe mink are better at pandemics than we are?

(Arnold Groehler, president of the Wisconsin Trappers Association) worries about what SARS-CoV-2 might do among thousands of captive mink. “It can mutate from the mink, and what will it turn into next? What other animal species will it affect next? I don’t think anybody knows yet.”

The animals most at risk right now are the mink on farms—and perhaps their fellow captive mustelids, the endangered black-footed ferret.

These ferrets, once spread across much of the American West, have been reintroduced from near-extinction over the past 40 years through a painstaking captive breeding program, which includes artificial insemination and even training the kits how to hunt.

In northern Colorado, the National Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center, which houses about 170 adult ferrets, or two-thirds of the captive breeding population, has locked down like a mink farm—no nonessential visitors allowed; handwashing, PPE, temperature checks, disinfection of cages. The population of ferrets has been split into pods, much like American schoolchildren.

Before SARS-CoV-2, the ferrets’ biggest threat was another zoonotic disease: sylvatic plague, from the same bacterium that causes bubonic plague. It was also introduced by people, via ships.

For mink or ferrets, people are the disease reservoir. Though perhaps there is relief in sight. Three companies are presently working on mink vaccines that may be ready by the spring, Hildebrandt said. Some mink will be vaccinated before many of us are. About 120 black-footed ferrets at the Colorado captive center have already been inoculated with an experimental vaccine created at the National Wildlife Health Center.

There are also some reasons for hope in the nature of the virus and the mink. As infectious as it is, SARS-CoV-2 doesn’t seem to stick around long outside its hosts—unlike Aleutian mink disease virus, which lasts for months, or the chronic wasting disease-causing prions that can persist in soil for years.

The wild American mink, too, naturally follows CDC guidelines better than many of us have, preferring solitude to the company of its conspecifics.

As Groehler, the trapper, put it: “Wild mink socially distance very well.”