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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2012 Oct 19;367(1604):2864-71. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0354.

Human viruses: discovery and emergence.

Author information

1
Centre for Immunity, Infection and Evolution, University of Edinburgh, Ashworth Laboratories, Kings Buildings, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, UK. mark.woolhouse@ed.ac.uk

Abstract

There are 219 virus species that are known to be able to infect humans. The first of these to be discovered was yellow fever virus in 1901, and three to four new species are still being found every year. Extrapolation of the discovery curve suggests that there is still a substantial pool of undiscovered human virus species, although an apparent slow-down in the rate of discovery of species from different families may indicate bounds to the potential range of diversity. More than two-thirds of human viruses can also infect non-human hosts, mainly mammals, and sometimes birds. Many specialist human viruses also have mammalian or avian origins. Indeed, a substantial proportion of mammalian viruses may be capable of crossing the species barrier into humans, although only around half of these are capable of being transmitted by humans and around half again of transmitting well enough to cause major outbreaks. A few possible predictors of species jumps can be identified, including the use of phylogenetically conserved cell receptors. It seems almost inevitable that new human viruses will continue to emerge, mainly from other mammals and birds, for the foreseeable future. For this reason, an effective global surveillance system for novel viruses is needed.

PMID:
22966141
PMCID:
PMC3427559
DOI:
10.1098/rstb.2011.0354
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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