Humans give more viruses to animals than animals to humans, new study finds

Humans give more viruses to animals than animals to humans, new study finds

A new study found that humans give more viruses to animals —about twice as many—than animals give to humans.

Researchers examined nearly 12 million virus genomes and detected almost 3,000 viruses jumping from one species to another: 79% from one animal species to another animal species and 21% jumped from humans to animals and the other way around.

When humans are involved, 64% are human-to-animal transmissions, known as anthroponosis, and 36% are animal-to-human transmissions, called zoonosis.

Animals who are in contact with people can get viruses from them: this includes cats, dogs, pigs, horses, cows, chickens, ducks, chimpanzees, gorillas and even raccoons.  

Wild animals were more likely to be infected by humans than vice versa. “This really highlights our enormous impact on the environment and the animals around us,” said Cedric Tan, lead author of the study published this week in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Researchers also found that viruses that can infect a wide variety of hosts – both humans and animals- don’t always need to undergo significant changes to infect a new species. This is an important insight because it suggests that some viruses are naturally equipped to jump between different hosts, which can include humans and various animals.

The study highlighted that when viruses jump from humans to animals, it can lead to the formation of new animal environments for the virus. These new environments can become sources from which the virus can potentially jump back to humans or other animals, increasing the risk of spreading disease.

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