EMERGING PATHOGENS

As climate and environment changes, humans, plants and animals increasingly migrate, allowing disease-causing organisms of all kinds to find new areas and new hosts to live in. This leads to frequent emergence of new diseases. Such effects can be intensified by socio-economic processes, such as population growth, human migration, urbanization, global trade, tourism that act on shorter timeframes, and have a feedback loop on the environment. This is the emerging infectious disease crisis representing an existential threat to all of humanity; technological, heavily urbanized humanity may be at particular risk. Because we cannot stop or reverse this phenomenon, it is essential to prepare for its consequences and to design a proactive strategy.

As a key to this strategy, we have to understand biological traits of emerging pathogens that enable them to spread, survive and infect under changing environmental conditions. Thus, we can anticipate the arrival of disease-causing organisms and their behavior once they have arrived; and that means we can mitigate their impacts on society. In order to do this, however, we must “find them before they find us.” The DAMA (Document, Assess, Monitor, Act) protocol serves as the umbrella framework for achieving this goal, extending human and material resources devoted to coping with the wave of emerging diseases that is only beginning and buying time for development of new vaccinations, medications, and control measures. Within this framework we continuously record (Document) the presence of new pathogens in new hosts or new habitats, perform the necessary scientific analyses (Assess) to be aware of the threat and based on these, we are concentrating our efforts onto the selected pathogens and hosts (Monitor). This program integrates activities ranging from the local, boots on the ground contributions of citizen scientists led by ecologists to the most sophisticated technologies of machine learning, bioinformatics, molecular biology and satellite surveillance. The results of our monitoring activities must be translated into effective Action as rapidly as possible when necessary. This has to be based on the scientific results but has to involve representatives of all relevant national agencies – public health, veterinary health, plant protection, disaster preparedness and tourism.

Brooks, D.R., E.P. Hoberg, W.A. Boeger. 2019. The Stockholm Paradigm: Climate Change and Emerging Disease. Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press.


Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are the most important vector organisms that affect both human and animal health because of their roles in spreading pathogens. They are responsible for about a million human deaths annually and worldwide, primarily in the tropical region, but they now pose serious threat in the temperate region as well. Global tourism and international trade have brought several invasive mosuito species into Europe, which can spread pathogens that are far more dangerous than what the native European species harbour. In the last ten years, three invasive mosquito species (tiger mosquito, asian bush mosquito and korean mosquito) have been recorded in Hungary, but the ecological causes and evolutionary consequences of such introduction events are not yet fully understood. The Centre for Ecological Research has initiated a project that aims at characterising how the spread of invasive mosquito species mediate the distribution, composition and density of the native mosquito community, and how they interact with the transmission dynamics of pathogens. Continue >>


Ticks

As a consequence of their blood-feeding behaviour, ticks can transmit a huge variety of pathogens. Among the several dozens of viruses, bacteria and single-celled parasites the best-known are tick-borne encephalitis virus, Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria causing Lyme disease and Babesia canis causing severe disease in dogs. Ticks have perfectly adapted to their natural environment where they spend most of their several years-long life. They usually tolerate changes of environment, weather and climate well and can survive in a dormant stage during hot summers or cold winters. Continue >>