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Cross-species pathogen spillover across ecosystem boundaries: mechanisms and theory

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Pathogen spillover between different host species is the trigger for many infectious disease outbreaks and emergence events, and ecosystem boundary areas have been suggested as spatial hotspots of spillover. This hypothesis is largely based on suspected higher rates of zoonotic disease spillover and emergence in fragmented landscapes and other areas where humans live in close vicinity to wildlife. For example, Ebola virus outbreaks have been linked to contacts between humans and infected wildlife at the rural-forest border, and spillover of yellow fever via mosquito vectors happens at the interface between forest and human settlements. Because spillover involves complex interactions between multiple species and is difficult to observe directly, empirical studies are scarce, particularly those that quantify underlying mechanisms. In this review, we identify and explore potential ecological mechanisms affecting spillover of pathogens (and parasites in general) at ecosystem boundaries. We borrow the concept of 'permeability' from animal movement ecology as a measure of the likelihood that hosts and parasites are present in an ecosystem boundary region. We then discuss how different mechanisms operating at the levels of organisms and ecosystems might affect permeability and spillover. This review is a step towards developing a general theory of cross-species parasite spillover across ecosystem boundaries with the eventual aim of improving predictions of spillover risk in heterogeneous landscapes. This article is part of the theme issue 'Dynamic and integrative approaches to understanding pathogen spillover'.
Journal: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences
ISSN: 0962-8436
Issue: 1782
Volume: 374
Number of pages: 9
Publication year:2019
Keywords:cross-boundary spillover, edge effects, emerging infectious disease, fragmentation, disease ecology, spillover theory