viruses of animal origin?

Freddie Mercury, Michel Foucault or even the comedian Elie Kakou, here are some of the personalities who died as a result of diseases linked to the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). An estimated 36 million people have died from AIDS. In nearly two years, the Covid-19 virus has already killed more than 5 million people.


If caution remains in order, zoonoses could be at the origin of these global pandemics. A zoonosis is an infectious disease transmitted from animals to humans. Zoonotic pathogens can be bacterial, viral or parasitic in origin, or can involve unconventional agents and spread to humans through direct contact or through food, water or the environment.

HIV: from monkeys to humans

The discovery of a virus close to HIV-1 in chimpanzees and another related to HIV-2 in mangabé monkeys, suggests that AIDS is a zoonosis whose transmission to humans could be linked to manipulation of monkey meat. HIV is therefore believed to be the result of transmission of the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), which naturally infects great apes in southern Cameroon, to humans.

The virus is then said to cross the species barrier. This could have happened in different situations: when hunting, by bites from an infected monkey, by abrasions when butchering these animals, or when eating bushmeat. These hypotheses are confirmed in a study that was conducted by an international team of researchers in 2015 and published in PNAS.

For the Covid-19, it is the bat that is involved. Researchers at the Institut Pasteur have discovered three viruses whose genome is almost identical to that of Sars-CoV-2 in bats in Laos, southern China. Above all, these viruses are transmissible to humans.

The destruction of the ecosystems involved

Recent research shows that the alteration of ecosystems by human activity can promote the development of viruses. Almost 75% of emerging human infectious diseases originate from animal reservoirs and are favored by the pressures exerted on biodiversity. The destruction of ecosystems multiplies contacts between domestic and wild species, but also with human beings. This increases the risk of transmission and the appearance of new diseases.

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