Four Ebola-like viruses will kill 12 times more people by 2050, scientists warn

Scientists have issued a stark warning that deadly viruses, transmitted from animals to humans, are on the rise.

US researchers predict diseases like Ebola and Marburg virus could claim 12 times more lives in 2050 than they did in 2020. The study found that "spillover events" of four viruses, including Nipah virus and SARS, have surged at an alarming rate over the past six decades.

Dr Amanda Meadows, of Ginkgo Bioworks, warned: "If these rates of increase continue, we would expect the analysed pathogens to cause four times the number of spillover events."

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She added: "The ultimate package of measures to support global prevention, preparedness, and resilience is not yet clear. What is clear, however, from the historical trends, is that urgent action is needed to address a large and growing risk to global health."

Ebola and Marburg virus are lethal diseases caused by filoviruses, often carried by fruit bats and monkeys. While these outbreaks are typically found in African countries, cases have been reported in Europe and the United States.

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SARS coronavirus 1, which spread to over two dozen countries before the global outbreak was contained in 2003, can be carried by bats and civets, native to India and Southeast Asia. The Nipah virus, also spread by fruit bats, has seen outbreaks in northeast Africa and Southeast Asia.

The Machupo virus, which triggers Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, comes from the large vesper mouse native to northern Bolivia. A study in BMJ Global Health examined rates of four viruses to predict future spillover events.

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The research analysed over 3,150 outbreaks and epidemics from 1963 to 2019 to identify trends in fatalities. During this period, they found 75 spillover events in 24 countries, resulting in a total of 17,232 deaths.

Most of these deaths – 15,771 in 40 outbreaks – occurred in Africa due to Ebola or Marburg virus.

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