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Environmental vulnerability of the Amazon may contribute to new diseases 


20/04/2021

Marlúcia Seixas (Fiocruz Amazônia) 

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The emergence of COVID-19 and the entire context of the pandemic humankind has been facing has raised an alert for the possible appearance of other emerging and re-emerging epidemics that may occur as a consequence of the interferences suffered by Brazilian biomes — deforestation and destruction of ecosystems. In a paper published recently in Genetics and Molecular Biology, researchers highlight that the Amazon’s environmental vulnerability when faced with degrading actions the biome has been suffering is a risk to the health of populations, especially when it carries the possibility of the emergence of new diseases or the reemergence of old, previously known ones. 

Titled Emerging complexities and rising omission: Contrasts among socio-ecological contexts of infectious diseases, research and policy in Brazil, the work was written by Leandro Luiz Giatti, Ricardo Agum Ribeiro, Alessandra Ferreira Dales Nava and Jutta Gutberlet. In their analysis, researchers point to two relevant axis of problematization within the Brazilian context: the need to appreciate the interdisciplinarity of knowledge to comprehend the emergency and to adopt effective direct actions; and the need for critical reasoning and for control actions on this development model that prays on ecosystems. 

Researcher Alessandra Nava, of the Leônidas & Maria Deane Institute (Fiocruz Amazônia), highlights some of the main factors that can contribute to the emergence of diseases: “deforestation involving forest fragmentation processes and land conversion, such as transforming an area that was previously a forest into a mining area, a hydroelectric power plant, soybean plantations, or pasture”. Nava adds, “poaching of wild animals and their illegal trade are also factors that can promote the appearance of new diseases and the reemergence of others”. 

According to Nava, some measures can be taken to avoid a new public health tragedy, and these actions include adopting new political approaches. “Protection for our biomes, stopping deforestation, stopping commercial and sports hunting. Strengthening protection entities and understanding that a forest provides crucial services for the viability of life on the planet”, she warns. 

The article was published in Genetics and Molecular Biology, volume 44, 2021, of the Public Health School of the University of São Paulo (USP). The authors are from four learning and research institutions: Leandro Luiz Giatti (University of São Paulo), Ricardo Agum Ribeiro (Federal Institute of Rondônia – Ifro), Alessandra Dales Nava (ILMD/Fiocruz Amazônia) and Jutta Gutberlet (University of Victoria, BC, Canada). 

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