Health Life

Areas where the next pandemic could emerge are revealed

Illustrative map of ‘red-alert’ zone. Circles represent approximate location of risk; circle size indicates level of risk. Credit: Michael Walsh, University of Sydney

An international team of human- and animal-health experts has incorporated environmental, social and economic considerations—including air transit centrality—to identify key areas at risk of leading to the next pandemic.

An international team of researchers has taken a holistic approach to reveal for the first time where wildlife-human interfaces intersect with areas of poor human outcomes and highly globalized cities, which could give rise to the next pandemic unless preventative measures are taken.

Areas exhibiting a high degree of human pressure on wildlife also had more than 40 percent of the world’s most connected cities in or adjacent to areas of likely spillover, and 14-20 percent of the world’s most connected cities at risk of such spillovers likely to go undetected because of poor health infrastructure (predominantly in South and South East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa). As with COVID-19, the impact of such spillovers could be global.

Led by the University of Sydney and with academics spanning the United Kingdom, India and Ethiopia, the open-access paper shows the cities worldwide that are at risk. Last month, an IPBES report highlighted the role biodiversity destruction plays in pandemics and provided recommendations. This Sydney-led research pinpoints the geographical areas that require greatest attention.

The paper, “Whence the next pandemic? The intersecting global geography of the animal-human interface, poor health systems and air transit centrality reveals conduits for high-impact spillover”, has published in the leading Elsevier journal, One Health. City lists for yellow, orange and red alert zones are available in open access.

Lead author Dr. Michael Walsh, who co-leads the One Health Node at Sydney’s Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, said that previously, much has been