ATHENS, Ga., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- A U.S.-led team of scientists has developed the first definitive proof that emerging infectious diseases are increasing in number.
The researchers, led by University of Georgia Professor John Gittleman, analyzed 335 incidents of disease emergence occurring since 1940. The scientists -- including researchers from the Consortium for Conservation Medicine in New York, the London Institute of Zoology and Columbia University -- found most of the new diseases originated in wildlife, including severe acute respiratory syndrome and the Ebola virus.
The study also determined more new diseases emerged during the 1980s than during any other decade, most likely due to the emergence of the human immunodeficiency virus and resulting AIDS epidemic that produced additional illnesses in people.
The scientists also created sophisticated computer models to help design a unique global map of emerging disease locations.
"This is a seminal moment in how we study emerging diseases," said Gittleman, who developed the approach used in analyzing the global database. "Our study has shown that bringing ecological sciences and public health together can advance the field in a dramatic way."
The research was recently reported in the journal Nature.