Warning bells are ringing against the rising threat from new diseases passing from animals to humans, say scientists.
UN agencies were said to have recorded at least 45 diseases that had found new home in human bodies stemming from environmental disruption, global warming and the progressive urbanisation of the planet in the last two decades.
Montira Pongsiri, an environmental health scientist at the US Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, and eight colleagues observed in the journal Bioscience that such a major transition was last seen during the industrial revolution.
"We appear to be undergoing a distinct change in global disease ecology. The recent emergence of infectious diseases appears to be driven by globalisation and ecological disruption," the Independent quoted Pongsiri as saying.
David Murrell, lecturer in ecology at University College London, added: "Since 1940, over 300 new diseases have been identified, 60 per cent of which crossed to humans from animals and 70 per cent of these came from contact with wildlife. I would expect the emergence of new diseases from contact with animals to continue in this century."
Murrell continued: "Before the world became so interconnected, deadly and newly emerged diseases were not capable of spreading widely. Now it is very possible that they will spread across countries and continents within days, thereby sustaining the outbreak."
Jan Slingenbergh, of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, told the Emerging Health Threats Forum: "There is no evidence to suggest this is going to end any time soon. Agriculture looks set to continue growing for another two decades, and we are only at the beginning of climate change."