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01Covid-192021031020210406 (R4)Chris van Tulleken explores the human behaviours causing pandemics, paying the price for getting too close to animals by degrading their territory and allowing viruses to jump. What's clear is that Covid-19 was inevitable; that a coronavirus would jump in Asia was predicted in at least 3 papers in early 2019. It's a symptom of degraded ecosystems leading to intimate contact with animals we don't normally encounter.

When examining the origins of Covid-19, perhaps the most amazing aspect is the number of different possibilities. Bats as medicine, bats as food, bat transmission to other intermediate animals - mink farmed for fur or raccoon dogs hunted as game. We don't know if it jumped in a home or a wet market or in a cave. Chris talks to NERVTAG virologist Prof Wendy Barclay who explains why she thinks it's not the case that it escaped from a lab. Plus ecologist and bat enthusiast Prof Kate Jones argues that invasive human behaviours are offering these viruses multiple chances to jump into people – mostly all totally hidden from sight - but is optimistic as the UK Government asks her to advise on spillover risks and how to achieve sustainable landscapes. While Dr Peter Daszak and Dr William Karesh from EcoHealth Alliance highlight how climate change and pandemic risk are interconnected; all the solutions already identified to tackle global warming will also help prevent the next virus from jumping.

Produced by Erika Wright
Edited by Deborah Cohen

Chris van Tulleken on the human behaviours that make viruses jump from animals to people.

Chris Van Tulleken explores the human behaviours causing pandemics, paying the price for getting too close to animals by degrading their territory and allowing viruses to jump. What's clear is that Covid-19 was inevitable; that a coronavirus would jump in Asia was predicted in at least 3 papers in early 2019. It's a symptom of degraded ecosystems leading to intimate contact with animals we don't normally encounter.

When examining the origins of Covid-19, perhaps the most amazing aspect is the number of different possibilities. Bats as medicine, bats as food, bat transmission to other intermediate animals - Mink farmed for fur or Raccoon Dogs hunted as game. We don't know if it jumped in a home or a wet market or in a cave. Chris talks to NERVTAG virologist Prof Wendy Barclay who explains why she thinks It's not the case that it escaped from a lab. Plus ecologist and bat enthusiast Prof Kate Jones argues that invasive human behaviours are offering these viruses multiple chances to jump into people – mostly all totally hidden from sight - but is optimistic as the UK Government asks her to advise on spillover risks and how to achieve sustainable landscapes.

Chris Van Tulleken on the human behaviours that make viruses jump from animals to people.

02Bird Flu2021031720210413 (R4)Chris Van Tulleken on the human behaviours that make viruses jump from animals to people.

Chris van Tulleken on the human behaviours that are causing pandemics, paying the price for getting too close to animals by degrading their territory and allowing viruses to jump. As we've all been locked down for one virus our poultry have been locked down for another. Currently all chicken farms in the UK are behind closed doors due to an H5N8 outbreak across Europe. In Russia there have been some cases in people this year but so far it has not passed from human to human. In 1997 the H5N1 Bird Flu outbreak in Hong Kong poultry markets infected a small number of people but had a 30 % mortality rate including children. Virologist Professor Malik Peiris was at the centre of the outbreak and recalls the concern that a pandemic was on the cards. Culling of all poultry flocks halted that event but not before the virus entered the wild bird population – a reservoir where the virus ‘card pack is shuffling.' Professor Nicola Lewis explains how common dabbling ducks are able to fly hundreds of miles in one hit, migrating across the world and intermingling with domestic animals. An ever increasing number of rice paddy fields is another risk factor while Dr Jessica Leibler underlines the contribution of industrial poultry and pig farming to viruses jumping. We know it would take a small number of mutations for bird flu to become human to human transmissible. NERVTAG virologist Wendy Barclay says, in the end, a bird flu pandemic is inevitable.

If you find dead or sick wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks) or other dead wild birds, such as gulls or birds of prey, do not touch them but in the UK call the Defra helpline (03459 33 55 77).

Produced by Erika Wright

Chris van Tulleken on the human behaviours that make viruses jump from animals to people.

03Hiv2021032420210420 (R4)Chris van Tulleken on the human behaviours that are causing pandemics, paying the price for getting too close to animals by degrading their territory and allowing viruses to jump. Professor Greg Towers explains that HIV has jumped more than once and it's not fully understood why one virus caused a pandemic while others did not. Chris hears new evidence that traces the origins of AIDS to a starving Congolese first world war soldier forced to kill primates in Cameroon for food in order to survive. Previously ‘patient zero' had been thought to be an indigenous ‘cut hunter' infected when butchering a chimpanzee. But Jacques Pepin, author of The Origins of Aids, describes how indigenous peoples rarely hunted chimps as it was too dangerous with basic tools such as nets or bow and arrows. When Allied forces invaded Cameroon, then a German colony, 17 local hunters suddenly turned into 1700 forcibly recruited World War 1 soldiers. Armed with rifles, chimps were easy prey. Once again this is a story of change in practice upsetting the ecosystem and humans invading – quite literally in this case – terrain where they have no business to be. Plus Dr Peter Daszak, Dr William Karesh of EcoHealth Alliance and Dr Kanitha Krishnasamy of Traffic explain the links between climate change, deforestation and viruses like HIV jumping. And Chris speaks to Professor Beatrice Hahn, virologist and virus hunter, who identified where HIV jumped by analysing thousands of faecal samples from wild chimps.

Produced by Erika Wright

Chris van Tulleken on the human behaviours that make viruses jump from animals to people.