The detriment of emerging diseases
Human populations are at risk from outbreaks of new diseases (Are there reasons why modern humans might be more prone to infectious disease epidemics, and where do these come from?)
Human populations are at risk from outbreaks of new diseases. Recent studies have shown the development of new diseases and pathogens as a result of overuse of anti-biotics, climate change, poverty, human immigration, natural selection, and many other factors. New and developed strains and pathogens unfamiliar to many scientists, particularly pharmaceutical scientists as well as doctors have been a global issue. Therefore, management and treatment of these emerging diseases and re-emerging diseases are a major concern due to the lack of knowledge, technologies and the effects and causes these diseases. New infectious diseases such as SARS, MRSA, AIDS, Zika virus, Ebola, H1N1 are just some of the many emerging diseases or re-emerging disease that has caused global outbreaks. Modern humans are certainly more prone to infectious diseases as a result of ongoing growth within technology, transportation, medicine, agriculture, tourism, and human population growth.
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Throughout the past few decades, there have been a number of developments within antibiotics and the pharmaceuticals industry. This has resulted in bacteria to have become resistant to antimicrobial agents (Harold C. Neu 1992), particularly through the development of superbugs as a result of natural selection. Superbugs such as MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is an example of what happens when antibiotics are prescribed for colds, cases of flu and other viral infections that aren’t responsive towards antibiotics. The overuse of antibiotics has been contributed to over-prescribing of the medication (Carl Llor 2014), along with uninformed use of antibiotics, Therefore, the judicious use of antibiotic medication should be supported by doctors and individuals. Scientists have tried combatting this with a combination of a variety of antibiotics, although this has resulted in the development of multidrug-resistant pathogens that are now being characterized by their heterogeneity, increasing virulence and resistance levels (G.L. French 2010).
These outbreaks will often occur in environments with high population density as the infectious diseases are able to be transmitted easily from one person to another or through vectors such as mosquitoes. The Zika Virus is a popular example of how impoverished environments and dense populations can cause major epidemics. Similarly, climate change has also influenced the environment to be more favourable towards mosquitoes which have caused a fluctuation with reproductive patterns (Reiter. P 2001). The increase of vectors results in higher transmission levels of all mosquito-borne diseases. Furthermore, the increasing rate of greenhouse gases created by human factors such as increasing agriculture and transportation have heavily influenced climate change (Anthony J. McMichael 2006) this has resulted in emergence and re-emergence of diseases such as the Zika Virus and Ebola.
In comparison, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome); an emerging disease which first appeared in China in 2002 caught national attention as it had rapidly spread to other neighbouring countries within a short period of time. This disease is most commonly transmitted through individuals passing on respiratory droplets by coughing or sneezing which then come into contact with an individual who is then infected. (Y Li 2005). As a result, human immigration, tourism, and dense population density have all been contributing factors to the spread of this infectious and destructive air-borne disease. (Bowen Jr 2006).
The H1N1, also known as swine flu or pig influenza, this zoonotic infectious disease first caused a major pandemic in 1919 which was caused by H1N1 virus which had findings of avian origin (Gatherer D 2009). This disease is also known for being highly malleable in terms of genetic differences (Yu-Chia Hsieh 2006). Further demonstrating the result of natural selection, along with genetic diversity amongst pathogenic organisms. Which has all been contributed by human factors such as increasing agricultural industries along with the overuse of antibiotics, not only in humans by also in the farming and agricultural industries.
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Moreover, diseases that are relevant amongst animal populations can be indicators of warning towards human health (Michael J Day 2011). For example, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is one of the most well-known viruses that started with animals and infected humans. HIV has many biochemical similarities to SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus) in the African green monkeys (V M Hirsch 1993). Therefore, most researchers and scientists believe that HIV is a result of SIV’s mutation to cross the species barrier from monkeys to humans as a result of genetic mutations through protein synthesis. As a result, the prevalence of HIV has increased mostly within the African continent as a result of poor hygiene, lack of sexual education, in particular, knowledge of sexually transmittable diseases such as HIV, along with the high population density in Africa (Helleringer 2007).
Similarly, another zoonotic infectious disease such as Mad Cows disease, shows that autopsies of affected cattle reveal holes in the brain tissue that give it a spongy, or spongiform, texture, which are similar spongiform diseases have been recognized in humans in the form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Food-borne diseases such as CJD have been a result of the reuse of animal tissues, which had been routinely fed to dairy cows as a protein supplement, which was later identified as the source of the infection (Brown P 1997). Although as a result of the carcases of the infected animals being buried in soil, the soil was also contaminated which further caused infection amongst the farming areas. Since the initial report of the infectious disease, there has been fear and speculation that it might be transferable to humans through milk or beef products.
- Neu, H.C., 1992. The crisis in antibiotic resistance. Science, 257(5073), pp.1064-1073.
- French, G.L., 2010. The continuing crisis in antibiotic resistance. International journal of antimicrobial agents, 36, pp.S3-S7.
- Llor, C. and Bjerrum, L., 2014. Antimicrobial resistance: risk associated with antibiotic overuse and initiatives to reduce the problem. Therapeutic advances in drug safety, 5(6), pp.229-241.
- Reiter, P., 2001. Climate change and mosquito-borne disease. Environmental health perspectives, 109(suppl 1), pp.141-161.
- McMichael, A.J., Woodruff, R.E. and Hales, S., 2006. Climate change and human health: present and future risks. The Lancet, 367(9513), pp.859-869.
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Day, M.J., 2011. One health: the importance of companion animal vector-borne diseases. Parasites & vectors, 4(1), p.49.
- Hirsch, V.M., Dapolito, G.A., Goldstein, S., McClure, H., Emau, P., Fultz, P.N., Isahakia, M.O.H.A.M.E.D., Lenroot, R., Myers, G. and Johnson, P.R., 1993. A distinct African lentivirus from Sykes’ monkeys. Journal of Virology, 67(3), pp.1517-1528.
- Helleringer, S. and Kohler, H.P., 2007. Sexual network structure and the spread of HIV in Africa: evidence from Likoma Island, Malawi. Aids, 21(17), pp.2323-2332.
- Brown, P., 1997. The risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (‘mad cow disease’) to human health. Jama, 278(12), pp.1008-1011.
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