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Question:
How do Animal's spread diseasis to Humans?



Replies:
An infectious disease that is spread to humans by animals is called a zoononis. The animals are the reservoir for the micro-organisms, and may or may not suffer from the infection. One common route is fecal/oral, which means fecal contamination of water or food spreads contagious microorganisms. For instance direct contamination with fecal material from cats can cause toxoplasma infections to humans. Anohter example: certain Leptospira infections are caused by (recreational) water contaminated with excrements from rodents. Contamination of food products of animal origin, like meat, milk and eggs, is another common route. Food products are often contaminated during slaughter and processing procedures. Some diseases are spread by insects that live on humans and animals (with Plague as a classic example). Rabies is spread by bites of the infected animals themselves. There are fewer examples of diseases spread by droplets (aerosols) directly from animals (mammals or birds) to humans. Since humans are just another species of mammals, each possible route of transmission between hosts has been explored by certain infectious micro-organisms.

The latest catastrophy are prion-caused diseases like Scrapy (in sheep) and BSE (in cattle) that apparently can spread to humans by consumption of infected meat/organs, as we have seen in the UK the last few years. In this case the contagion is not a microorganism but a protein that is wrongly folded, and forces our own proteins to fold in the same, wrong way.

Trudy Wassenaar



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