This pandemic almost the entire world is experiencing has been taking lives and infecting millions of people for more than a year now and many now ask, "where can the next pandemics be?"
Since coronaviruses are detected so often in horseshoe bats, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, the Polytechnic University of Milan, and the Massey University of New Zealand, analyzed land-use patterns at 10,000 randomly produced locations all over Europe and Asia to determine which locations had the highest probability for human-bat interaction.
Apparently, like every day, people hear about the new COVID-19 mutation emerging from someplace, or other, the World Health Organization has even had to come up with a new naming strategy to cope with all the new strains.
And, while it's pretty certain that the virus was not developed in a laboratory, nobody can claim to be absolutely sure about the place, reason or manner the original COVID-19 came into existence.
ALSO READ: 'Worrying' Mutation Detected in the UK
Locating the 'hot spots'
What can be done, though, an article posted on IFL Science specified, is "prepare for the future." That's what this research team has set out to do in a new study, Land-use change and the livestock revolution increase the risk of zoonotic coronavirus transmission from rhinolophid bats, published in Nature Food, with the purpose of locating the "hot spots" for the next pandemic to emerge.
A hot spot, this report said, was identified to be a site where bat populations coincided with particular human activity, say, a forest fragmentation, raising livestock, or human settlement.
The researchers also determined locations that are in danger of becoming hot spots in the future as the manner humans are using the land changes speedily.
According to Paolo D'Odorico, the study's co-author and professor of environmental science, policy, and management at a UC Berkeley, land-use changes can have an essential effect on human health, since they can increase humans' exposure to zoonotic disease.
He added each formal land-use change needs to be evaluated, for the potential change reactions that could affect the health of humans.
Likelihood of Emergence of COVID-19
The human activities which the researchers were able to identify increase the likelihood of the emergence of COVID-19 at a location in several ways.
A rise in human habitation would mean more opportunity for a pair of species to come into contact and infect each other.
In a similar way, a rise in livelihood production offers a coronavirus type with lots of potential intermediate hosts to infect on its way into humans.
Lastly, an augmentation in forest fragmentation leads to the dying off of species that need the very particular habitats offered by those large connecting forests.
Without any of the said specialists left in an area, horseshoe bats are said to be free to move in, increasing further the chances of interacting with a human.
The Next Location
The type of coronavirus behind this presently pandemic was first detected in China, and it is in that country that most of the present hot spots are also found.
China, as explained in the analysis, exhibits higher human presence levels in the distributions of horseshoe bats, as evidenced by population density, as well as the portion of the landscape covered by towns, villages, and other human settlements.
Also in this country, regions near forest fragments are more densely used for the production of livestock, as well as human settlements, thereby favoring the contact between humans and wildlife either directly, or by means of intermediate animals like livestock.
The researchers, in fact, discovered that China is the worldwide hotspot of simultaneously high forest fragmentation, human settlement, and livestock density, making the nation distinctly susceptible to the occurrence of new coronaviruses.
Specifically, researchers also said, the growing demand of China for meat products, as well as the resulting rise in industrial livestock farming, is particularly alarming since the methods involved in large-scale production of meat bring together large animal populations with low genetic diversity and frequently suppressed immune systems, ideal for a virus to rampantly run.
Emergence Outside China
The research identified too, a lot of places outside of China that are in danger of becoming hot spots. As forest fragmentation continues in the north Philippines and Japan, the possibility of these regions seeing their own COVID-19 increases, as well.
In a similar way, parts of Southeast Asia and Thailand are susceptible to turning out to be hot spots since humans and livestock are taking over the landscape.
Related information is shown on BBC World Service's YouTube video below:
Check out more news and information on COVID-19 on Science Times.