University of Illinois
According to a new report co-written by Illinois Natural History Survey postdoctoral researcher Valeria Trivellone, climate change, poverty, urbanization, land-use change and the exploitation of wildlife all contribute to the emergence of new infectious diseases, which, in turn, threaten global food security. Trivellone spoke with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about how global authorities can tackle these intertwined challenges.
How do emerging infectious diseases affect food security?
Emerging infectious diseases threaten food security by disrupting food systems and increasing food prices, both locally and globally. New infectious diseases may start out as infections in wild animals in natural areas, but as we modify these landscapes, they emerge more often than expected. The pace of this crisis seems faster than our ability to understand and adapt.
Our research revealed that most emerging and reemerging infectious diseases have minimal economic impacts by themselves, but their combined impact in treatment costs and production losses comes to at least $1 trillion per year. And because we live in a fast, hyperconnected world, everyone is affected to some degree and these effects are cumulative. Global climate change is speeding the emergence of new infectious diseases and is expected to have lasting socioeconomic effects, even in food-secure regions.
How do urbanization, globalization and climate change contribute to the emergence of new infectious diseases?
Global warming allows pathogens to expand their geographic distribution and come into contact with previously unexposed hosts. Cities are incubators for emerging infectious diseases, many of which are brought in by globalized trade and travel. The convergence of these factors sets the stage for the emerging infectious disease crisis to become an existential threat to humanity.