1. To promote integrative studies on zoonotic diseases among scientists of different disciplines, so as to reveal the transmission pattern and dynamic of key zoonotic diseases which is imposing high threat to humans.
  2. To training young scientists and students in field of zoonotic diseases
  3. To provide advices or knowledge to governments and the public for disease prevention and control



For a regular update, please send an email to the following email ID with your name and affiliation.




Help in proposal drafting: L S Shashidhara, Nathalie Fomproix

Help in proposal development: Rodolfo Dirzo

Concept note: Guha Dharmarajan, Savannah River Ecology Lab, University of Georgia, USA

Logo design:  Saubhik Sarkar, Shivani Krishan and Imroze Khan of Ashoka University, India


Chairs: Dr Santiago Merino Rodriguez, National Museum of Natural Sciences, Madrid, Spain and Dr. Zhibin Zhang, Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China

Zoonotic disease is an old, but persistent, vividly modern problem to humanity. Historically, zoonotic diseases such as plague, rabies, influenza, to name but a few, have caused huge damage to the public health around the world. In the modern era of the new century, we are facing more challenge of zoonotic diseases. Indeed, just during the past two decades, we have experienced two pandemics (H1N1, 2009; COVID-19, 2019-2020) and several major epidemics such as SARS (2002-2003), MERS (2012), Zika (2007, 2013-2014), Ebola (2014) and plague (2017). Besides, many other zoonotic diseases such as Lyme, Hanta fever, Dengue have irrupted frequently in many countries or regions.  

Zoonotic diseases are maladies shared by both human and animals (both wild and domestic). The diseases can be virus, bacterium or a host of many other parasites. Both human and animals can be natural reservoir of these pathogens, which circulate between people and animals. Some pathogens need to complete their life span in several animal hosts, or need ectoparasitic vectors (e.g. fleas, mites, ticks) to spread from host to host. Some other pathogens spread via air droplet, feces or soil (e.g. influenza, Hanta fever).

Coevolution may play a significant role in the origin of zoonotic diseases in humans and animals (Kaján et al 2019). By about 10,000 years ago, domestication of animals for pets or food or laboring significantly increased the probability of cross infections of zoonotic diseases, and promoted coevolution of humans, animals and pathogens. During the arm race between pathogen and hosts, emerging or reemerging contagious agent would appear and cause an epidemic or even a pandemic to humans (Morand et al. 1996).

Increasingly, more and more studies show that humans are important factors in affecting the prevalence of zoonotic diseases (Loh et al. 2015) and zoonotic risk. Land use by humans for urbanization, agricultural use and road construction is an important driver of many zoonotic disease outbreaks (Patz et al. 2004). Due to habitat destruction which result in local decline of large animals but increase of small animals such as rodents and then zoonotic diseases (Dirzo et al 2014). Land use and defaunation frequently result in replacement of wild animals (e.g. rodents) with domestic animals, which increases the contact between pathogens and domestic animals or small animals, thus increasing the probability of contact of pathogens and people (Young et al. 2014). Notably, illegal hunting and trade of animals or animal products remain being an increasing clandestine activity that strongly facilitates disease transmission risks from animals to humans (Young et al. 2016).

Climate factors may also play a significant role in the prevalence of zoonotic diseases. Many studies have demonstrated that favorable climate would increase the food resources and then increase the abundance of animal hosts and then the zoonotic diseases (e.g. plague, Lymes, Hanta fever) (Stenseth et al 2006, Hjelle & Glass. 2000, Ostfeld et al 2006, Xu et al 2011). Besides, climate change will alter the distribution of animal hosts and, thus, alter disease risk at different climate zones. Seasonality-driven climate would cause cyclic migration of animals which attribute to seasonal epidemic of many diseases such as influenza (Olsen et al., 2006).

The understanding and the way such understanding may lead society to prepare and deal with future zoonotic disease outbreaks demand scientific collaborative research on a host of disciplines. Therefore, adopting an integrative, multi-disciplinary approach involving multiple life sciences such as zoology, ecology, epidemiology, molecular biology, climate change biology, environmental biology is necessary to inform the policy making realm. To this end, international entities become crucial in coordinating global efforts. Similarly, governments and academic institutions around the globe need to value the efforts undertaken by such bodies and strengthen them going forward. For example, under the support by IUBS, infectious diseases have been explored in the scientific program of Biological Consequences and Global Change (BCGC), mostly through modeling approaches. However, we insist, it is crucial that zoonotic diseases are investigated in a coordinated, integrative way beyond the evidently essential medical perspective, bringing on board the ecological perspective, that is, linking humans, animals, pathogens, ecosystems and global environmental change – including Anthropogenically driven climate and biodiversity change. In this direction, IUBS has established a working group and an international scientific program on zoonotic diseases by bringing scientists and experts from all over the world.

More details soon…


Dirzo, R., Young, H.S., Balle, G. Ceballos, C., Galetti, M., B. Collen. 2014. Defaunation in the Anthropocene. Science 345: 401-406.

Hjelle, B. & Glass, G.E. 2000. Outbreak of hantavirus infection in the Four Corners region of the United States in the wake of the 1997–1998 El Nino—Southern Oscillation. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 181, 1569-1573.

Kaján GL, Doszpoly A, Tarján ZL, Vidovszky MZ,· Papp T, Coevolution with a focus on animal and human DNA viruses. Journal of Molecular Evolution 88(Pt 1), DOI: 10.1007/s00239-019-09913-4.

Loh, E. H., C. Zambrana-Torrelio, K. J. Olival, T. L. Bogich, C. K. Johnson, J. A. Mazet, W. Karesh, and P. Daszak. 2015. Targeting transmission pathways for emerging zoonotic disease surveillance and control. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis 15:432-437.

Morand S, Manning SD, Woolhouse MEJ. 1996. Parasite-host coevolution and geographic patterns of parasite infectivity and host susceptibility. Proc R Soc Lond B 263: 119-128

Olsen, B., Munster, V. J., Wallensten, A., Waldenstrom, J., Osterhaus, A. D. M. E., & Fouchier, R. A. M. (2006). Global patterns of influenza A virus in wild birds. Science, 312(5772), 384–388. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1122438

Ostfeld RS, Canham CD, Oggenfuss K, Winchcombe RJ, Keesing F 2006 Climate, deer, rodents, and acorns as determinants of variation in Lyme-disease risk. PLoS Biol 4(6): e145. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0040145

Patz JA, Daszak P, Tabor GM, Aguirre AA, Pearl M, Epstein J, Wolfe ND, Kilpatrick AM, Foufopoulos J, Molyneux D, Bradley DJ, and Members of the Working Group on Land Use Change and Disease Emergence, 2004, Unhealthy landscapes: policy recommendations on land use change and infectious disease emergence. Environmental Health Perspectives, 112(10): 1092-1098.

Stenseth NC, et al. 2006 Plague dynamics are driven by climate variation. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 103(35):13110-13115.

Xu L, et al. 2011 Nonlinear effect of climate on plague during the third pandemic in China. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 108(25):10214-10219.

Young, H.S., Dirzo, R., Helgen, K.M., McCauley, D.J., Billeter, S. Kosoy,