Science

The Amazon could be the cradle of new pandemics

Due to anthropic activities, the Amazon could in the future become the place of origin of new infectious diseases such as Covid – 19. A Brazilian ecologist suggests it

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(photo: Florence Goisnard / AFP via Getty Images)

The Amazon is a reservoir of viruses , and a day could represent the place where new pandemics will originate. Due to the anthropogenic activities , and more precisely to the deforestation and invasion of human beings in the animal habitats of the most Earth's great green lung. The alarm was raised by David Lapola , ecologist of the University of Campinas, Brazil, who studies in what way anthropic activities remodel the ecosystems of tropical forests, according to which the anthropization of the Amazon will contribute to the birth of zoonosis or infectious diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans, just like the new coronavirus , a virus that is thought to have made the leap of species from bats to humans in Hubei, a rapidly urbanizing province of China. “The Amazon is a huge reservoir of viruses” , explained the expert in a interview with Agence France-Press (Afp). “Better not try your luck”.

We know that the Amazon , the largest rainforest of the world, it is disappearing at truly alarming rates. Last year, during the first year in office of President Jair Bolsonaro , deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is increased by 85% , equal to over 10 thousand square kilometers (an area almost equal to that occupied by Lebanon). And this alarming trend is continuing to increase again this year: just think that, according to satellite data provided by the National Institute for Space Research of Brazil, in just 4 months, from January to April, about a thousand kilometers were wiped out squares of the rainforest . “Bad news not only for the planet but also for health human “, comments Lapola. “When an ecological imbalance is caused, it is precisely then that a virus can make the leap of species , from animals to humans “.

Forecasts, those of the expert, which also find confirmation in diseases that we now know well, such as AIDS, Ebola and dengue. “All viruses have emerged and spread on a large scale due to ecological imbalances” , the expert continues. So far, most of these outbreaks have concentrated in Asia and Africa, and have been associated with certain species of bats . But the immense biodiversity of the Amazon could make this region “the largest coronavirus pool in the world” , explains the expert, referring not only to the new coronavirus, but to coronaviruses in general. “This is another reason not to to use the Amazon in an irrational way, as we are doing now, “he said.

As the expert suggests, Bolsonaro , who we know to be a climate change denier , should direct efforts in favor of the Brazilian Environmental Protection Agency, Ibama. “ I hope that in the next administration we will pay more attention to the protection of what could be the greatest biological treasure on the planet” , concludes Lapola. “We need to change the relationship between our society and the rainforest” . Otherwise, the world will have to face more and more outbreaks of viruses that will make the leap of species “in a very complex process that is difficult to predict”.

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