- Scientists say new diseases will jump from animals unless humans change the way they live
In a broken world struggling to recover from coronavirus, a new pandemic threatens to destroy the remnants of mankind. That is the storyline of Covid-21: Lethal Virus, a TV movie in post-production that imagines another coronavirus will emerge next year. The low-budget film is unlikely to win any Oscars, but many scientists believe its premise is not far-fetched. The Covid-19 pandemic, which follows the Sars and Mers outbreaks, marks the third time since the turn of the century that a coronavirus is thought to have jumped from bats to humans before morphing into an epidemic. Coronaviruses are thought to have been circulating in bats for centuries but have only recently become a leading source of zoonotic diseases, alongside other illnesses that originated in animals such as HIV, Ebola and Zika.
Scientists blame the increase in the spillover of pathogens from animals on two trends: rapid globalisation and humanity’s cavalier interaction with nature. This means disease outbreaks and pandemics are likely to emerge regularly unless the trends can be checked or reversed, they warn. “The coronavirus pandemic is completely unsurprising,” said Aaron Bernstein, director of the Center for Climate, Health and Global Environment at Harvard University. “We knew before this happened that two-thirds, if not three-quarters, of emerging infections were occurring because of the spillover of pathogens from wild animals into people.”