Four diseases transmitted from animals to humans will kill 12 times more people in 2050 than in 2020, a group of researchers fear.
Experts from US biotechnology company Ginkgo Bioworks have called for “urgent action” to address the risks to global public health.
Human epidemics of zoonotic diseases – also known as spillover effects – may become more frequent in the future due to climate change and deforestation, which exposes humans to wild animals more frequently.
The team’s analysis looked at historical trends for four specific viral pathogens.
These are filoviruses, including Ebola, Marburg, SARS (the Covid strain), Nipah and Machupo (which causes Bolivian hemorrhagic fever).
The study did not include Covid, which caused a global pandemic in 2020 and may have originated in bats.
It looked at more than 3,000 eruptions between 1963 and 2019 and identified 75 spillover events in 24 countries.
The database covers epidemics reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and outbreaks since 1963.
These events resulted in 17,232 deaths, including 15,771 deaths from filoviruses, most of which occurred in Africa.
The researchers reported that infections are increasing by approximately 5% each year.
They added: “If these annual rates of increase continue, we expect that the analyzed pathogens will cause four times more spill cases and 12 times more deaths by 2050 than in 2020.”
The researchers also suggested that the numbers may be underestimated due to strict inclusion criteria for pathogens in the analysis.
The panel added that “urgent action is needed to address a significant and growing threat to global health” based on historical trends.
The results are published in the journal BMJ Global Health.