Researchers from the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York, have developed a computer-based model using large data sets to accurately predict outbreaks of zoonotic diseases spread by rodents. They built a computer program that analyzed a massive database of mammalian habits and habitats that included 86 different variables such as population density, life span, reproductive strategies, etc. of rodents. Barbara Han, who led the study, found that their study model had an accuracy rate of 90% when they used it to recognize lifestyle patterns common to rodents carrying diseases like black plague, rabies, and hanta virus. Using this model, the team has identified 150 new animal species that could harbor zoonotic diseases, and the hot spots where a disease was more likely to pass on from rodent to human – Middle East, Central Asia, and the American Midwest. However, Han says it is hard to forecast when and where a zoonotic disease may strike.
Read more in Science.