Infectious Disease Can be Slowed by Biodiversity

Some of the biodiversity of a coral reef

Infectious diseases in many ecosystems can be slowed by protecting biodiversity, Summit Voice reports.

“With greater diversity of species, you get a dilution effect that can reduce the severity of disease,” Catherine Searle, an Oregon State University zoologist and lead author of a recent study that looks at the role of biodiversity in slowing the spread of deadly diseases, told Summit. “Some species are poor hosts, some may not get infected at all, and this tends to slow disease transmission,” Searle continued.

“This has been shown in other systems like Lyme disease which infects humans, mice and deer,” she added. “No one has really considered the dilution effect much in amphibians, which are experiencing population declines throughout the world. It’s an underappreciated value of biodiversity.”

Andrew Blaustein, a co-author of the study, professor of zoology at OSU, and leading researcher on the causes of amphibian declines, told Summit, “Emerging infectious diseases are on the rise in many ecosystems. Protection of biodiversity may help reduce diseases.”

“It’s another strong argument for why diverse ecosystems are so important in general. And it’s very clear that biodiversity is much easier to protect than it is to restore once it’s lost,” he added.

The study will be published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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