Infectious diseases are still to be found among the top causes of human deaths globally. The majority of human pathogens are zoonotic and many have their origins in wildlife. The cost of new infections to societies in terms of human mortality and morbidity can be enormous. Humans have contact with vastly more infectious agents of wildlife origin than spillover and emerge in human populations. Therefore, understanding and predicting zoonotic infection emergence is complex. Changes in the ecology of the host(s), the infection or both, are thought to drive the infection emergence in a range of different host-infection systems. Here key recent studies regarding how changes in host ecology, receptor use and infection adaptation relate to spillover and emergence from wildlife reservoirs are reviewed. The challenges wildlife zoonoses pose to epidemiologists are also discussed, along with how developments in technology, such as PCR, have changed perspectives relating to wildlife as hosts of zoonotic infections.
Epidemiology: Open Access, 2011, 2012 pp. 2161 - 1165