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Pinpointing emerging disease hotspots

Global resources to fight emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), which significantly burden economies and public health, are poorly allocated. Further, much of the scientific and surveillance effort is focused on the wrong countries, according to new research published in Nature this week.

Kate Jones of the Zoological Society of London, UK, and her colleagues in the US have analyzed some 335 EID outbreaks that occurred between 1940 and 2004 including AIDs, severe acute respiratory syndrome, (SARS), drug-resistant bacteria and Ebola virus. Their results show that the global pattern of outbreaks is non-random and provide a basis for predicting where infectious diseases are most likely to originate. Identification of ‘EID-hotspots’ should make it possible to recognize health risks at an early stage and prepare strategies to contain them.

Jones and colleagues suggest that these hotspots can be mapped accurately to socio-economic, environmental and ecological factors, particularly human population density and growth.

Risk maps developed by the researchers point to developing regions at low latitudes as the more likely source of new diseases, but their data show that research spending and surveillance efforts are concentrated in richer, developed countries at higher latitudes.

Nature 451, 7181 table of contents

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