Tampering with biodiversity, risk of new infection

More parasite species have been found in wildlife samples near human settlements located in forested areas.

New infections may be at risk due to disturbance in biodiversity areas. Indian scientists have come to this conclusion based on a new study conducted in the Biodiversity Zone of the Annamalai Hills of the Western Ghats. Scientists have found parasitic microbes, originally found in domesticated animals and humans, in wildlife species of the Annamalai Biodiversity Area. Human interference in forest areas and change in land use are believed to be mainly responsible for the presence of these microorganisms.

More parasite species have been found in wildlife samples near human settlements located in forested areas. Additionally, more parasites have been found in forest areas affected by human interference than in calmer forests. Due to increasing human activities in biodiversity areas, the contact of humans and domestic animals with wildlife diversity is increasing. The researchers say that the planting of forest areas and the presence of domesticated animals may be the reason for the spread of new parasites in wildlife.

Researchers have come to this conclusion after two years of analyzing nearly 4,000 samples from 23 wild animals from 19 different forest areas in the Annamalai hills located on the Western Ghats in South India. During this study, samples of parasitic microorganism were obtained from the faeces of wildlife and were scientifically analysed.

Researchers from the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, have conducted this study. According to Dr G Umapati, Principal Researcher, Endangered Species Conservation Laboratory, CCMB, the Western Ghats are known for their rich biodiversity. Little has been studied about the effects of changes in the region’s ecosystems on the fauna.

The finding of exotic parasitic microorganisms in natural areas is a warning, as deadly diseases such as HIV and Ebola have emerged from wildlife populations. Therefore, it may be important to detect diseases emerging from wild populations because of the damage caused by microorganisms to wildlife, their natural hosts.

Animal species and the microorganisms found in their intestines are mutually dependent on each other. Changes in their natural habitat also affect the diversity of wildlife and the parasitic microorganisms that depend on them. In such a situation, there can be a transformation of microorganisms found in the intestines of wildlife, which can also spread to domesticated animals and humans. Similarly, microorganisms found in the intestines of cattle and humans can also affect wildlife.

According to the researchers, parasitic microbes play an important role in maintaining host population dynamics, species conversion and ecosystem biomass determination. The life cycles of both the host organism and the parasitic microorganism dependent on them depend on their native ecosystem.

According to Umapati, along with protecting biodiversity areas from such changes, the entry of domesticated animals into the natural habitat of wildlife should also be restricted. Domestic animals can transmit infection of external parasitic microorganisms to humans. That is why, it is also necessary to de-worm cattle and other domesticated animals from time to time.


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