10 animals under the control of experts

Chimpanzees, gorillas, wild boars, even horses or dogs: These animals currently possess viruses that may be responsible for the next disease of animal origin that infects humanity on a large scale.

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“We can not say where the next pandemic is coming from, but about ten species have a very large number of common viruses with Homo sapiens, a prerequisite for transmission between species,” explains Timothée Poisot, professor of biological sciences. at the University of Montreal and lead author of an article that has just been brought up on this topic in the journal arXiv.

Together with his colleagues from the UK and US, the researcher used artificial intelligence to identify the animal species that are most likely to transmit viruses to people carrying serious diseases known as zoonoses.

We know that the coronavirus that caused COVID-19 is of animal origin, although the species has not yet been formally identified, as is the virus responsible for AIDS. The bat is said to be the cause of rabies and the rat for monkey pox. To find out which zoonoses would be most worrying, the researchers used a very complex database of 80,000 possible virus-host interactions.

Many factors

The researcher specifies that the species he has identified are not necessarily the ones that will no doubt transmit the next virus that is capable of triggering a human pandemic because many factors come into play in this phenomenon. A capital element is the promiscuity that we maintain with certain species.

“Although we have many genetic connections with chimpanzees and gorillas, few people come into contact with these animals on a daily basis. On the other hand, the dog is an animal that has shared human intimacy since the dawn of time,” points out Mr. Poisot.

Does that mean the next pandemic could come from “man’s best friend”? There is no consensus on this point, the biologist replies, but the dog is the source of several “new” viruses that have infected people in Malaysia, Cuba and Haiti.

35,000 computer hours

Very theoretically, the work of biologists required 35,000 hours of computer use by Calcul Québec, a non-profit organization that requires the use of supercomputers, machines 3,000 times more powerful than those used in the home.

At the conclusion of this work, about twenty cases were selected. The researchers were surprised to find out that one of them, responsible for smallpox in mice, had in fact been identified as responsible for an outbreak in a Chinese school in 1987.

Their discovery made it possible to relocate the most vulnerable species according to current scientific knowledge. While species from Europe were suspected, the international team’s research is shifting its focus to the Amazon. This is where, according to Professor Poisot, the potential for viral development is greatest.


(Equus caballus)

In the stable, the horse can transmit ringworm, scabies and salmonellosis. The wild species is still primarily present in the western United States and western Canada.


(Canis lupus familiaris)

The dog is descended from the gray wolf and is the first species that has been domesticated by humans and lives all over the world. In addition to rabies, which is often fatal, the dog can transmit bacterial diseases such as leptospirosis, which causes fever and kidney failure.


(Pan troglodytes)

Suspected of being the origin of AIDS, a retrovirus that would have affected it long before humans, the chimpanzee would be responsible for the transmission of Ebola, which is often fatal to humans.


(Gorilla gorilla)

The western gorilla is present on the plains of seven African countries. Ebola would have decimated much of the species today on the brink of extinction. It could have played a role in the transmission of the AIDS virus to humans.


(Gorilla Beringei)

This equally endangered primate life in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. It carries diseases such as influenza, meningitis and tuberculosis.


(Proechimys guyannesis)

In Guyana, leptospirosis, also transmitted by dogs, is nicknamed “rat disease”. This Latin American species is different from the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus), found in cities like Montreal.


(sus scrofa)

A mammal originating in Europe and domesticated in North American farms, the wild boar carries about thirty diseases that can be transmitted to humans, including brucellosis and tuberculosis.


(Peromyscus maniculatus)

Present in Quebec, the deer mouse carries hantavirus in its urine, saliva and feces. Human symptoms: fever, chills, headache and muscle aches. Untreated, the disease causes difficulty breathing.


(Hylaeamys megacephalus)

Limited to the South American continent, this rodent is responsible for cases of leishmaniasis, a parasitic infection of the skin.


(No name in French)

This species of rodent, present in South America, has been identified as a reservoir for the Venezuelan hemorrhagic fever virus.

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