Islamabad - New research suggests that the loss of forest habitat increases contact between humans and non-human primates —and therefore the transmission of diseases from animals to humans, as with COVID-19.

New research suggests that deforestation increases animal-to-human disease transmission.

A new study published in the journal Landscape Ecology has identified some factors that bring humans and non-human primates into contact.

The researchers point out that the continued destruction of forest habitats, for agricultural use or human habitation, would cause this contact to become more frequent, as humans and non-human primates would be forced into closer proximity.

As a consequence, the chances of diseases transmitting from these primates to humans are also likely to increase.

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which has caused the COVID-19 pandemic, is an example of a virus that spread from animals to humans.

According to a review in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, more than half of all human pathogens are believed to be zoonotic, meaning that they first emerged in non-human animals and were then transmitted to humans.

A variety of interlocking factors have increased the chances of these pathogens spreading to humans.

The review notes that global, intensive agriculture has increased, climate change has transformed ecologies, habitats have been fragmented, biodiversity has been reduced, and humans have been placed in increasing contact with wildlife, either directly or through intermediary animals, such as intensively farmed livestock.

The present study focuses on the roles that deforestation and other human behaviors may have in increasing contact between humans and nonhuman primates, from whom many viruses that currently circulate among people derive.