The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

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Bird on a Fire
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The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Sep 08, 2020 6:36 pm

The origins of the current pandemic are still not clear, and may never be: while horseshoe bats were the original reservoir, some kind of intermediate mammal host is hypothesised before covid-19 ended up in humans. What does seem likely is that, as with the previous SARS outbreak, meat markets were involved in transmission to humans.

In the west we don't eat much terrestrial wildlife. However, we do eat pigs, which have been responsible for previous viral pandemics and a lot of near misses: the 2009 swine flu pandemic (250k dead) and possibly the 1918 flu pandemic (500 million dead), plus further epidemics in the USA (1976, 1988), Philippines (2007), UK (2009), India (2015, 2017), Nepal (2015), Pakistan (2016), Maldives (2017), and probably others undetected.

Bird flu gets into humans from poultry, and caused a million deaths in the 1956 pandemic, a further 1-4 million in the 1968 pandemic, plus lots of recent near-misses.

It's probably also worth noting that MERS likely got into humans via camel farming for meat. Then there's fun stuff like viral haemorrhagic fevers, anthrax, prion diseases, Japanese encephalitis, TB and so on. All sorts of potential sources for the next pandemic, especially considering that people around the world are continually expanding into new areas of wilderness to raise meat for western tables.

So, the question - people here are quite happy to make individual sacrifices to mitigate the current pandemic: staying at home, wearing a mask, etc., and criticise others for not making similar sacrifices. I'm wondering if anyone has made, or would be prepared to make, lifestyle changes to prevent the next one? Because the next one seems inevitable for as long as industrial animal-farming continues.

Has anybody, say, cut down on meat and dairy consumption? Or switched to buying only from lower-risk sources? For that matter, has anybody even seen a mainstream source suggesting that people do so? Because outside of a few vegan activists' accounts on social media, I haven't.

In general, I prefer long-term solutions to short-term reactions. It seems pretty shortsighted to fret about wearing masks in the supermarket during this pandemic, if when we get there we give our money to fund battery chickens and pig sheds breeding the next one. It's even dafter to be spending public money on healthcare and economic stimuli to ward off recession, while also spending billions subsidising meat production.

I won't bore you further by mentioning the climate emergency and ecological crises that also necessitate reduced meat production, because you all know that already.
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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by discovolante » Tue Sep 08, 2020 6:50 pm

I like the idea of it but it seems like something that needs to be achieved on a global scale, and we can't even manage it nationally. Obviously it isn't entirely viable for everyone in the world anyway, even if a lot of increase in meat consumption arises from a change in cultural habits rather than need. I don't think urging people to change their eating habits in case virus is viable unfortunately, unless it became some kind of massive campaign which is unlikely.

Is what I think anyway.
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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by raven » Tue Sep 08, 2020 8:28 pm

I've read a couple of articles that suggested it's no coincidence that this pandemic occured after China slaughtered 350 million pigs due to African Swine Fever, implying that had the knock-on effect of increasing selling of wild animals for meat. So maybe we're kind of already seeing a pandemic caused by mass farming techniques.

We've made some attempt to cut down meat (ie meat-free days) but we're not very consistent about it, I'm afraid.

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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by AMS » Tue Sep 08, 2020 8:43 pm

I've been reducing the amount of meat I eat, though more for a mix of the climate reasons and basic pragmatism (married to a vegetarian + eating most meals at home since lockdown). The reducing pandemics aspect of this feels like a drop on the ocean for a individual, so I agree it needs to come about on a much bigger scale. The broader range of "meat-free" options on the shelves these days are a step in the right direction though.

One thing about flu pandemics, compared to covid, is that we do already understand vaccination development for flu and have the technology to turn out new vaccine strains every year. The year of the swine flu, which emerged in about Feb/March, it was added into the composition of the seasonal vaccines by about Sept/Oct.

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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Bird on a Fire » Wed Sep 09, 2020 12:19 am

discovolante wrote:
Tue Sep 08, 2020 6:50 pm
I like the idea of it but it seems like something that needs to be achieved on a global scale, and we can't even manage it nationally. Obviously it isn't entirely viable for everyone in the world anyway, even if a lot of increase in meat consumption arises from a change in cultural habits rather than need. I don't think urging people to change their eating habits in case virus is viable unfortunately, unless it became some kind of massive campaign which is unlikely.

Is what I think anyway.
I agree that individuals won't make that much practical difference with willy-nilly cutdowns on meat and dairy. They'd be much more effective coordinating their efforts for appropriately-sized boycotts and pressure for legislation.

But of course, global starts national. All the global successes we've had so far - ending slavery, fixing acid rain and the ozone hole, tackling climate change and the worldwide liberation of the working classes Eurovision Song Contest* - started national, and there's plenty of evidence from recent months that you really, really don't want to be the first country/region where the pandemic happens: a few weeks is the difference between being Italy and being a country four weeks behind Italy, which would obviously benefit from enormous gains in experience.

It's much, much better to export those kinds of risks, like we do with air pollution.

Obviously it probably would be a sensible, forward-thinking nation or bloc to go first, so not the UK.

*which, for its first nineteen years, constituted merely one Austrian man, with a drum machine, in a village hall near the Swiss border.
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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Bird on a Fire » Wed Sep 09, 2020 12:24 am

raven wrote:
Tue Sep 08, 2020 8:28 pm
I've read a couple of articles that suggested it's no coincidence that this pandemic occured after China slaughtered 350 million pigs due to African Swine Fever, implying that had the knock-on effect of increasing selling of wild animals for meat. So maybe we're kind of already seeing a pandemic caused by mass farming techniques.
I hadn't heard that, but I'll take a look. I think that would also illlustrate the connectedness of global economics and food supply - just because I don't eat many bats doesn't mean my pork pies aren't potentially problematic.
raven wrote:
Tue Sep 08, 2020 8:28 pm
We've made some attempt to cut down meat (ie meat-free days) but we're not very consistent about it, I'm afraid.
I was expecting a no from everyone, so that's a pleasant surprise ;)

I didn't actually start this thread to try to guilt-trip individuals - I thought this was a fun opening hook for a conversation about "global meatonomics" and its role in past, present and future pandemics.
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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Millennie Al » Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:52 am

Currently, 96% of the biomass of land mammals is humans or domesticated animals (see https://xkcd.com/1338/ for a graphic). What do you suggest we do with the superfluous farmed animals if there is a large reduction in meat eating? Just kill them all?

Somewhat more realistically, humans suffer from pandemics because we are a monoculture at high density. That's not so easily fixed.
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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by bolo » Wed Sep 09, 2020 2:03 am

I eat meat and plan to keep doing so, but that's a silly argument.

People aren't all going to become vegetarians overnight. If demand dropped, there would simply be less production -- less breeding, not a sudden cull.

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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Woodchopper » Wed Sep 09, 2020 7:52 am

Millennie Al wrote:
Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:52 am
Currently, 96% of the biomass of land mammals is humans or domesticated animals (see https://xkcd.com/1338/ for a graphic). What do you suggest we do with the superfluous farmed animals if there is a large reduction in meat eating? Just kill them all?
Which isn't going to happen. Realistically, if there were to be a change in meat consumption there would be a gradual reduction over time. People very rarely make radical changes to their diets. Market economics would mean that farmers shift to production of vegetables. Over time far fewer domesticated animals would be born.

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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Matatouille » Wed Sep 09, 2020 7:59 am

Over the last year or so Nishatouelle and I have switched from meat/fish almost every evening meal to once every week or so, and that mostly fish. I don't recall the last time I bought meat, but mostly because we've been working through an initially well-stocked freezer. We've not found a good replacement for something meaty/fishy in her lunch sandwiches for her or beloved cheese in mine, so that is a big chink in our flexitarian armour.

I can't say pandemic risk was on my mind buying meat or dairy in the before, but it is increasingly so now. Nowadays most times we have red meat it is in the form of ham for sandwiches or takeaway curry & similar, so I don't reckon pandemic risk was of concern to anyone in the supply chain. Or when visiting my middle class parents who usually serve meat from the butcher in the next village who sells meat from his own upland reared lifestock, so low virus risk but other environmental issues.

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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Herainestold » Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:12 pm

Woodchopper wrote:
Wed Sep 09, 2020 7:52 am
Millennie Al wrote:
Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:52 am
Currently, 96% of the biomass of land mammals is humans or domesticated animals (see https://xkcd.com/1338/ for a graphic). What do you suggest we do with the superfluous farmed animals if there is a large reduction in meat eating? Just kill them all?
Which isn't going to happen. Realistically, if there were to be a change in meat consumption there would be a gradual reduction over time. People very rarely make radical changes to their diets. Market economics would mean that farmers shift to production of vegetables. Over time far fewer domesticated animals would be born.
Exactly. Meat consumption and demand is falling, but it will take some time.

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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Bird on a Fire » Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:38 pm

Millennie Al wrote:
Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:52 am
Somewhat more realistically, humans suffer from pandemics because we are a monoculture at high density. That's not so easily fixed.
Humans are nothing like a monoculture. Even in the densest urban areas they live along side dogs, cats, rats, mice, pigeons, crows, gulls (etcetera), and very often alongside other wildlife and, in developing countries especially, livestock. I live in a city centre in western Europe and my neighbours have chickens that sometimes wander about in the street.

If humans were a monoculture at high density we might see higher person-to-person transmission of endemic diseases, but we wouldn't see novel zoonoses like covid-19 entering the human population from animal reservoirs. That is a problem caused by interactions between humans and animals, and is worsening because of intensification and lower genetic diversity of farmed animals, and increased penetration of human activity into formerly wild areas, exposing both humans and animals to a greater variety of pathogens, some proportion of which have pandemic potential.

The options are reduced animal agriculture and/or reversing habitat destruction/fragmentation, or accepting increasing numbers of novel zoonotic pandemics.
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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Bird on a Fire » Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:42 pm

Herainestold wrote:
Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:12 pm
Meat consumption and demand is falling
No it isn't. Globally it's increasing, especially poultry and pigs (the ones that have given us most of the riskiest epidemics so far).

https://ourworldindata.org/meat-production
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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Woodchopper » Wed Sep 09, 2020 2:03 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:38 pm
That is a problem caused by interactions between humans and animals, and is worsening because of intensification and lower genetic diversity of farmed animals, and increased penetration of human activity into formerly wild areas, exposing both humans and animals to a greater variety of pathogens, some proportion of which have pandemic potential.
I'n not sure about the trend.

Go back 200 years and almost the entire human population lived in very close proximity to animals. Almost everyone was a subsistence farmer and it was common to share living quarters with sheep, pigs, horses etc. Likewise, 200 years ago hunting was an essential food source for those subsistence farmers. They'd catch rabbit, fish, rodents, birds etc.

Nowadays people are mostly urban. Certainly cities have some animals. But aside from cats and dogs, urban humans don't share their houses with other mammals. Similarly, urban dwellers rarely go hunting.

Certainly there are a lot more humans then there were. So population increases might outweigh the effect of urbanization. But it doesn't seem obvious that there are increasing interactions. The large increase in humans has also resulted in a decrease in the population of many animals. ETA which is a bag thing, but which lowers the chances of interactions with some species.

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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Martin Y » Wed Sep 09, 2020 2:36 pm

We could probably have knocked that AIDS thing on the head if people had stopped having risky sex. But people didn't want to.

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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Millennie Al » Wed Sep 09, 2020 11:58 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:38 pm
Millennie Al wrote:
Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:52 am
Somewhat more realistically, humans suffer from pandemics because we are a monoculture at high density. That's not so easily fixed.
Humans are nothing like a monoculture. Even in the densest urban areas they live along side dogs, cats, rats, mice, pigeons, crows, gulls (etcetera), and very often alongside other wildlife and, in developing countries especially, livestock. I live in a city centre in western Europe and my neighbours have chickens that sometimes wander about in the street.
That's not what a monoculture is. It doesn't literally mean no other species is present. If it did then you could have a 100 square mile field of wheat and it wouldn't be a monoculture due to things like earthworms and bacteria,

Humans are a monoculture because there's only one kind of human and we mix sufficiently freely that there is a path from almost every human alive today to almost every other human alive today;
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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Millennie Al » Thu Sep 10, 2020 12:00 am

bolo wrote:
Wed Sep 09, 2020 2:03 am
I eat meat and plan to keep doing so, but that's a silly argument.

People aren't all going to become vegetarians overnight. If demand dropped, there would simply be less production -- less breeding, not a sudden cull.
Ok. So assume it takes 100 years, and tell me what you would see in the countryside in 100 years time. Are there still many fields of cows? sheep? Any pigs or chickens? If they're all still there, presumably it has no effect on diseases; if they're not there, what is there instead?
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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Sep 10, 2020 12:18 am

Millennie Al wrote:
Wed Sep 09, 2020 11:58 pm
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:38 pm
Millennie Al wrote:
Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:52 am
Somewhat more realistically, humans suffer from pandemics because we are a monoculture at high density. That's not so easily fixed.
Humans are nothing like a monoculture. Even in the densest urban areas they live along side dogs, cats, rats, mice, pigeons, crows, gulls (etcetera), and very often alongside other wildlife and, in developing countries especially, livestock. I live in a city centre in western Europe and my neighbours have chickens that sometimes wander about in the street.
That's not what a monoculture is. It doesn't literally mean no other species is present. If it did then you could have a 100 square mile field of wheat and it wouldn't be a monoculture due to things like earthworms and bacteria,

Humans are a monoculture because there's only one kind of human and we mix sufficiently freely that there is a path from almost every human alive today to almost every other human alive today;
Monoculture means that no other crop is deliberately grown - cultured, if you will - within a single system. This is clearly not the case, as we have lots of other animal species in our homes and towns on purpose.

(If we were being extremely pedantic we could specify the same kind of crop - technically a farmer might be culturing both grass and cows in the same field, for example, but that would be a cow monoculture grazing a grass monoculture, rather than polyculture.)

Human populations are spatially separate, but usually quite well connected by the movement of a relatively small number of individuals. The global population is enormously less dense than the kinds of things described as monocultures- we could each have 1m2 and still all fit on the Isle of Wight, and that's more free space than a conventional chicken production system uses. But a novel coronavirus would spread far quicker through the chicken monoculture in a typical chickenshed than it has through the human population. If we all lived in a big warehouse, Matrix-style, we'd be a monoculture, but I haven't lived in a warehouse since my gap year.

This is a pretty irrelevant de-rail, though.
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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Sep 10, 2020 12:43 am

Woodchopper wrote:
Wed Sep 09, 2020 2:03 pm
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Wed Sep 09, 2020 1:38 pm
That is a problem caused by interactions between humans and animals, and is worsening because of intensification and lower genetic diversity of farmed animals, and increased penetration of human activity into formerly wild areas, exposing both humans and animals to a greater variety of pathogens, some proportion of which have pandemic potential.
I'n not sure about the trend.

Go back 200 years and almost the entire human population lived in very close proximity to animals. Almost everyone was a subsistence farmer and it was common to share living quarters with sheep, pigs, horses etc. Likewise, 200 years ago hunting was an essential food source for those subsistence farmers. They'd catch rabbit, fish, rodents, birds etc.

Nowadays people are mostly urban. Certainly cities have some animals. But aside from cats and dogs, urban humans don't share their houses with other mammals. Similarly, urban dwellers rarely go hunting.

Certainly there are a lot more humans then there were. So population increases might outweigh the effect of urbanization. But it doesn't seem obvious that there are increasing interactions. The large increase in humans has also resulted in a decrease in the population of many animals. ETA which is a bag thing, but which lowers the chances of interactions with some species.
I think there's been a misunderstanding about the trend I was describing - I expect I was unclear. I didn't mean to suggest that greater numbers/proportions of people were interacting with animals.

There have been two relevant changes, one to farming systems and one to 'natural'/non-anthopogenic ecosystems.

Animal production has become more intensive: larger herds at higher densities, decreased genetic diversity (due to dependence on a small number of particularly profitable breeds), routine use of antibiotics, etc.. These all increase the risk of a disease spreading, by putting more animals closer together, with lower chances of inherent immunity, while generating resistant strains of pathogens.

At the same time, non-anthropogenic ecosystems (happy to quibble about the definition, but ones that would be more-or-less structurally similar if humans didn't exist) have been lost and fragmented at a rate that is high and increasing. This has two implications.

Quantitatively, the number of interactions between human systems (ie, people and/or their meat) and wildlife increases. When you cut down a bunch of trees, the bats that used to sleep in them have to sleep somewhere else - maybe another tree, maybe a chickenshed.

There's also a qualitative change in the kind of wildlife people are now increasingly interacting with. When you build a road through the middle of a forest, all the wildlife populations (along with their endemic pathogens) that used to be in the middle of a forest are now right by the side of the road. People then go and catch those animals and bring them, dead or alive, into their homes. Therefore, instead of interacting with the same wildlife they've interacted with for generations, they may well be interacting with wildlife that nobody with their genetic makeup has interacted with ever. People are much less likely to have immunity to those novel pathogens. The wildlife trade, moving mostly live animals from all over the world (generally in the direction of east Asia), compounds those effects.

The risks from both of these changes are multiplicative, not merely additive: pathogens like flu (and it seems to be the case with covid-19 too) pass back and forth between wildlife and livestock. Take a bat virus, cough it onto a pig who then spreads it to the other 1000 pigs in the same shed, while it mutates to become optimally virulent as it circulates round the farm. Spread the mutated virus back into a bat, catch the bat and take it to a wet market, put your cage of bats on top of your cage of pangolins, just next to the civets, etcetera.

So it doesn't really matter that more people live in cities instead of amongst livestock: a novel zoonosis only needs to get into the human system once to have a high chance of spreading. Current economic trends are amplifying the rate at which those first contacts happen, and simultaneously providing optimal conditions to develop pandemic-potential pathogens afterwards.
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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Sep 10, 2020 3:02 pm

Lest anybody think I'm just making this up, I've just been reading Was the COVID‐19 pandemic avoidable? A call for a “solution‐oriented” approach in pathogen evolutionary ecology to prevent future outbreaks in Ecology Letters, the top ecology research journal.

It's open access, so I'll quote liberally, but I recommend just reading the whole thing (it's short):
Roche et al. wrote:Yet, an event such as the current COVID‐19 pandemic was a foregone conclusion. The rate of appearance of new emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), most of them with a wildlife origin, has increased in past decades (Jones, (2008)) and recent outbreaks including H5N1 (Vijaykrishna, 2008), MERS‐CoV (Cauchemez, 2016), Zika (Musso et al., 2019) and Ebola (WHO Ebola Response Team, 2014) have previously raised concerns over their potential to cause pandemics. These outbreaks were controlled partly because their transmissibility and virulence made them more amenable to public health control measures. However, scientists and public health experts have been raising warnings for years about the potential for contagious avian influenza or coronavirus spillovers (among others) (Cheng et al., 2007) to become the next global pandemic (WHO, 2018), as they are frequently found in both domestic (e.g., pigs, cats, bovines, birds) and wild animals (e.g. bats, pangolins). They have also repeatedly shown their ability to infect humans through multiple spillover events that have led to human‐to‐human transmission.

But do we know why this happened? In other words, was this pandemic avoidable and are we ready to prevent or contain the inevitable next one?

SARS‐CoV‐2 is the perfect example of a zoonosis spilling over from wildlife and establishing shortly afterwards in human populations. This type of event has happened many times during human evolution and in the history of human civilisations (Lloyd‐Smith, 2009). For example, diseases such as smallpox, bubonic plague and cholera, introduced by Europeans to the Americas and Africa caused extinction of indigenous communities, but had initially an animal origin. Other diseases such as yellow fever, HIV/AIDS, dengue and Zika all emerged from non‐human primates. Similarly, measles diverged from rinderpest, a pathogen that has circulated in livestock for centuries with now humans being the only reservoir. While this type of emergence is not new, we now live in a world that is more connected than ever due to the globalisation of trade, advances in transportation systems, a population experiencing exponential growth and the highest rates of urbanisation in history. Connectivity clearly accelerates disease spread once a spillover event has occurred, but the frequency and volume of those events are also increasing due to global environmental changes.
I swear I hadn't read it when I started this thread, but most of that looks extremely familiar.

Unlike me, they've also given some more detailed thought to potential solutions:
The case for investments in drug and vaccine development seems more straightforward and is certainly justified, especially as a pandemic is underway, but these should also be complemented with policies and strategies that address the root causes of disease emergence in global hotspots such as educational programmes to reduce exposure to wildlife by Asian farmers or biological conservation in Latin America or sub‐Saharan Africa. Though less visible, this preparedness strategy could certainly be highly efficient and cost‐effective, especially if we consider the health and economic costs averted by a reduction in spillover events and a reduced likelihood of a new pandemic. Furthermore, investing in stronger health systems, universal access to healthcare and education in developing countries could help contain these outbreaks before they become widespread. It is therefore mandatory to develop integrative approaches that combine long‐term pandemic prevention via ecosystem management with reinforced health systems for better disease surveillance and control, in collaboration with a social science perspective to improve our understanding of the barriers and the enablers for adoption of such solutions.

Governments are relying on scientists during this time of “war” against COVID‐19, but such reliance is even more important during ‘peace’ time. We should not consider this pandemic as an isolated phenomenon, but rather as a part of a causal chain of events derived from our actions, i.e. a systemic crisis. There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that we are irreversibly deteriorating ecosystem integrity and the services they provide (Kadykalo, 2019), transgressing planetary boundaries and running out of time to take decisive action and reverse this trend (Steffen, 2015). Only by investing in scientific knowledge in close partnership with key stakeholders (e.g. local authorities and citizens, public health authorities, supra‐national organisations, etc.) we will be able to find actionable solutions, guide policy decisions and avoid future catastrophes. As detailed previously, the need for ecological and evolutionary approaches to understand, model and predict pandemics in a changing world is crucial. Focusing our efforts only on emergency and mitigation measures against COVID‐19 would constitute a major missed opportunity to combat the broader structural causes of the pandemic. The downstream consequences would be dramatic.
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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Millennie Al » Mon Sep 14, 2020 3:26 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Thu Sep 10, 2020 12:18 am
Millennie Al wrote:
Wed Sep 09, 2020 11:58 pm
Humans are a monoculture because there's only one kind of human and we mix sufficiently freely that there is a path from almost every human alive today to almost every other human alive today;
Monoculture means that no other crop is deliberately grown - cultured, if you will - within a single system. This is clearly not the case, as we have lots of other animal species in our homes and towns on purpose.
When a housing estate is built, all of it is for people. Any pets or other animale of plants are incidental to its purpose.
This is a pretty irrelevant de-rail, though.
It's relevant to the assertion that diseases are increasingly coming from human interaction with wildlfe. In fact, humans are interacting far less with wildlife and the relevant factor is spread between people, as has been increasingly the case since humans started living in towns and cities.
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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Sep 14, 2020 11:06 am

Millennie Al wrote:
Mon Sep 14, 2020 3:26 am
It's relevant to the assertion that diseases are increasingly coming from human interaction with wildlfe. In fact, humans are interacting far less with wildlife and the relevant factor is spread between people, as has been increasingly the case since humans started living in towns and cities.
Both are relevant: the diseases originate from human-wildlife interaction and subsequently spread through the human population.

I explained in detail in the post below the one you're quoting.
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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by nezumi » Tue Sep 15, 2020 1:21 pm

Wow, something I never thought would happen, a topic on here I know quite a lot about! Now, if someone wants to ask deep questions about serial killers it'll be two-for-two.

I don't have a degree in this stuff, sadly, but I've read, watched and devoured every single resource I've been able to find on virology and just pathogens in general over the last 20 years - been obsessed since I was about 14 but nobody ever told me virology was a thing so I missed the boat.

Aanywho,
There are obviously lots of factors that increase the likelihood of pandemic disease, but the main, central one is human encroachment into previously untouched habitats in combination with strong trade. The most plausible theory I've seen of the Black Death (the 1340s one) was that the mongols new trade routes across the steppe went through habitat in which marmots had a particularly virulent version of yersinia pestis which was then transported across into Europe as the plague. Of course, it's a bacterial disease so the plague isn't so much of a cause for concern anymore, but the original had a long enough incubation and an alternative carrier or two besides humans. It did mutate into pneumonic and septicaemic versions in humans at some point, making it many times worse. It started from incursion into new habitats and spread via trade.

The viruses we talk about a lot, ebola, sars, flu are all zoonotic too. The ones we don't talk about because they've been with us forever were probably zoonotic at some point but have adapted to be entirely human viruses so they don't cause us as many problems.

The next pandemic will most likely be a virus, it'll be one with at least one zoonotic carrier, it'll be from a reservoir in animals we only have contact with because we are somewhere we shouldn't really be, it'll have a long incubation period, cause symptoms at first indistinguishable from flu and remain infectious right from innoculation to end and it will be airborne and highly communicable with even a low viral load, it will readily mutate and it will probably kill by cytokine storm. It probably will be a flu virus, but there are an awful lot of other candidates that fill most of the criteria.

As terrified as I am, because I'm at high risk of complications, this isn't the big one (not after you've read all about the Black Death anyway). We've failed the test miserably, and when the big one does come along the entirity of civilisation is up sh*t creek sans paddle unless we do something about it pronto.

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shpalman
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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by shpalman » Tue Sep 15, 2020 1:53 pm

If all* viruses are zoonotic how did they get started in the original animal host?
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nezumi
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Re: The Next Pandemic: A meaty issue

Post by nezumi » Tue Sep 15, 2020 2:14 pm

shpalman wrote:
Tue Sep 15, 2020 1:53 pm
If all* viruses are zoonotic how did they get started in the original animal host?
Other animals, multi-cellular organisms, all the way down to protozoa I imagine. I am of the opinion that viruses evolved as parasitical RNA and co-evolved with their various hosts - in many cases in symbiosis, which would explain the huge variation we observe, not just in strains of particular viruses but in the very fact that they have something like eight different types of genomes, DNA, RNA, m-RNA, some have segments of genetic material, other have one really, really long piece, they all differ in the way they get into cells... honestly it's fascinating. They range in size by magnitudes. Viruses are the descendants of the first life on earth, where they differ from the first genetic molecules I suppose would be that they are obligate parasites. I could go on about this for hours...

There's enough evidence of RNA viruses in our own genome to be fairly confident in saying that viruses evolve along with their hosts and generally (but not invariably) tend towards high communicability and low mortality, the idea situation for a virus would be to chunter along making baby viruses* while keeping its host in perpetual infectiousness. So I suppose the mechanism would be something along the lines of Pre-human ape community catches novel zoonotic disease from contact with animal, it wipes out loads of them, but also evolves into a milder strain that carries on bouncing between different communities due to pre-historic mixing. Eventually it's normalised into the poulation as a relatively mild disease (or just hangs about causing havoc, whatever). The population evolves into humans eventually, and in the interrim the virus is still there bouncing between populations and co-evolving with them. Populations separate, geographically for example, leaving different genetic variants in viruses in different populations.

Additionally, just to bring my argument to the present, the fact that we are now one massive interconnected population across most of the planet, we now have lots of small variants of human diseases that were originally, in the distant past, zoonotic and lots and lots of new diseases jumping into humans because we're starting settlements in new places with new animals with new variants of viruses.

I think that about covers it.

Thanks for the invitation to blather shpalman :D


* lol, I love the completely erroneous image

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