Franconian researcher: environmental destruction to blame for pandemics like Corona – Bayreuth


Bayreuth professor believes that high biodiversity puts a stop to viruses –
6 hours ago

If humans destroy the natural balance in species-rich habitats, the likelihood of dangerous pathogens being transmitted from animals to humans increases, says Bayreuth Professor Carl Beierkuhnlein.

© Sebastian Kahnert, dpa

Mr. Beierkuhnlein, you are of the opinion that the advance of humans and the resulting reduction in biodiversity in certain habitats leads to dangerous viruses such as Sars-CoV-2 being transmitted to humans. What does biodiversity have to do with it?
Carl Beierkuhnlein: Biodiversity is like a multitude of insurance policies. You have to know: if there are a multitude of types, then there is also a cause. They have all developed into a certain niche and also fulfill a function there. Plants and animals serve as food for other species – or the animals eat other animals themselves and thereby control them. A variety of species and also a variety of viruses result in a dilution effect and no species prevail.

Carl Beierkuhnlein has been Professor of Biogeography at the University of Bayreuth since 2002. Before that, the studied geoecologist was professor for “landscape ecology and location studies” at the University of Rostock.

© Photo: private

That would mean that where there are still a large number of species, the likelihood of viruses that are dangerous to humans would be lower. In fact, there are far fewer species in Europe and yet the danger is much lower here. How does that fit together?
Beierkuhnlein: Due to the ice ages, there have long been far fewer species here. Europe is particularly species-poor, for geographic and historical reasons. And there has been a very close interaction between people and nature here for a long time. In the tropics, on the other hand, an extremely high biodiversity has developed over a very long period of time, at high temperatures and not interrupted by ice ages, in which humans have so far not played a major role. The fact that he is now advancing into these spaces is something very new in terms of area and mass.

“Covid is a real alarm signal”

And that promotes the transmission of viruses like Sars-CoV-2 now?
Beierkuhnlein: Yes. It’s just a matter of probability. With the advance of humans and the reduction of biodiversity, it becomes more likely that one will come into contact with pathogens that can be transmitted to humans. Sars-CoV-2 is now a real alarm signal, but it will not be the last virus. Hopefully we will develop behaviors that will make us more cautious.

Influenza, noroviruses, borreliosis: the most common infectious diseases

The coronavirus is particularly contagious and dangerous. But many other infectious diseases can also lead to serious complications. We have listed the most common notifiable infectious diseases in Bavaria here – there are very reliably effective vaccinations against some of them.

What exactly could be done to make such transmissions less likely in the future?
Beierkuhnlein: We like to blame the Africans or the Asians for tropical diseases because the pathogens appear there first. Above all, however, the huge amount of land used, for example in Africa, is responsible for our consumption of resources and our products in Europe. We are essentially responsible for the fact that humans penetrate there and that biodiversity decreases. In addition, of course, there is the enormous interconnection of the world through air and freight traffic. Pathogens and new mutants can be transported anywhere in a very short time. You have to ask yourself whether traveling should stay that easy in the future.

“Pharmaceutical industry has no interest in a dengue vaccine”

After all, in this case a vaccine could be developed very quickly. There is still no effective vaccine against dengue fever or chikungunya.
Beierkuhnlein: That really annoys me immensely. So far, the pharmaceutical industry has not been interested in this because there is not much money to be made in Africa. Every year many millions of people become ill and many thousands die. With climate change and the settlement of tropical mosquitoes, such diseases could also become more common here – and then the pharmaceutical industry will become more active very quickly.

Small and aggressive: tiger mosquitoes in Fürth can no longer be exterminated

How big is the danger from such viruses?
Beierkuhnlein: A lot of people could get very sick, even with severe courses. But you have to be honest: that wouldn’t be a challenge comparable to Covid. The dynamic due to the easy transfer from person to person is unique. With dengue or chikungunya you still need the mosquito in between. On the other hand, I can protect myself much more poorly from them. No FFP2 mask can help.

Insect winners and losers

After summer car trips, the windshield used to be a cemetery paved with dead insects. Today it is often sparkling clean, there are up to 70 percent fewer insects. We introduce the winners and losers among them.

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Franconian researcher environmental destruction blame pandemics Corona Bayreuth


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