Biologist: ‘The next pandemic could come from our own livestock’
Share article:
Share article:

Biologist: ‘The next pandemic could come from our own livestock’

© Fran Hogan at Unsplash

Experts are still trying to fathom out how the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 made its disastrous way into the human population, and now a Belgian biologist has warned that a future pandemic could be in the process of being created right now, but much closer to home.

The chance is real that a new worldwide epidemic could be created in our own part of the world,” Hedwig Leirs, biologist at the University of Antwerp, told the Gazet Van Antwerpen.

The next pandemic could come from our own pigs, chickens or cows. After all, we live close by our animals, and by each other.”

Tropical areas of the world are still the most likely places for pandemics to start, because of the biodiversity and population density.” Examples include Sika, Ebola and HIV. But that combination is not unique. Western Europe carries its own risks.

Here we combine three risks: intensive livestock farming, a high population density and, as far as bacterial infections are concerned, a high antibiotic resistance in the herd. Fortunately, the use of antibiotics has declined sharply in recent years.”

In intensive farming, animals like cows, pigs and chickens live in extreme proximity to each other, while farmworkers are in close contact with the animals.

Most importantly of all, people live very close to each other. The perfect conditions for a virus: circulation in order to mutate, and a roomy playing field to become more infectious.”

Related News


Leirs is interested in infectious diseases, especially those carried by rodents. It’s already happening with Covid-19.

For example, we know that house mice were not really susceptible to the original variant, but they are for the British variant. Dogs also seem less susceptible than cats. We want to map those species precisely.”

Meanwhile, the world needs to understand that a new pandemic could be on the horizon.

We should not assume that Covid-19 was our generation’s Spanish flu and that we are now a hundred years away from another pandemic,” he said.

“Viruses and their properties are being mapped, early detection and intervention systems are being developed, and drugs and vaccines are being researched that could work against new viruses. Hopefully, the current pandemic, which is ultimately a fairly mild virus compared to Ebola, except for the elderly, will make us realise that preparing for the worst is a useful tactic.”

Alan Hope
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Over 50,000 march against fascism in Rome
Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against fascism in Rome on Saturday, one week after violent protests against the Covid certificate. Over ...
Will Brussels bounce back?
The lockdowns have tested the city and forced it to confront key questions about its future. Derek Blyth looks back at an extraordinary moment in our ...
Vaccinations: Belgium’s Health Minister currently not in favour of a general booster shot
The latest figures on new coronavirus cases are worrying, but rather than imposing new safety measures, what is needed is full compliance with ...
Thousands protest against the Covid health pass in France
Demonstrations against the health pass and other measures aimed at preventing the spread of the Coronavirus mobilised tens of thousands of protesters ...
Record-breaking 770-metre highline installed in Freÿr, Belgium
A 770-metre long highline was installed at an altitude of 70 metres at the Freÿr Rocks on Saturday, setting a new Belgian record, according to ...
Huge cannabis farm discovered inside closed down Chinese restaurant near Charleroi
A cannabis plantation with several hundred mature plants was dismantled on Friday evening in a former Chinese restaurant on Chaussée de Bruxelles ...
Citizen founded wind turbine project launched in Liège region
A citizen founded wind turbine project was inaugurated in the Liège Region on Saturday by Walloon Energy Minister Philippe Henry (Ecolo) together ...
Five questions to philosopher Philippe Van Parijs on Leopold II and embarrassment in Brussels’ public space
The worldwide explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, combined with the 60th anniversary of the ...
Belgium to invest in sustainable heating in 2022
The federal government will set aside about one million euros in its 2022 budget for a social tariff for sustainable heating, Federal Energy Minister ...
Unfinished draft of new Astérix story discovered
The discovery of the unfinished draft of a cartoon album on the most famous of all Gauls, sketched by cartoonist René Goscinny, was announced by his ...
Anti-vaxxers demonstrate against Covid Safe Ticket in Brussels
Hundreds of supporters of the anti-vaxx movement gathered on Saturday outside the headquarters of the Pfizer pharmaceutical company to protest ...
Belgium’s investment funds total 260 billion euros in assets
Belgium’s funds industry grew by 5.3% (13 billion euros) in the second quarter of this year, bringing investment funds available to the public to ...