by Aaron L. Morris, Jean-François Guégan, Demetra Andreou et al.
Sci. Adv. 2016; 2:e1600387, 7 December 2016
Many of the known emerging infectious diseases have been traced to tropical rainforests, especially freshwater aquatic systems. The study shows that the collapse of a freshwater food-web driven by deforestation and land-use change led to the increased prevalence of a bacterial pathogen called Mycobacterium ulcerans, which causes a skin disease in humans known as Buruli ulcer. The authors discovered that up to a point, environmental degradation caused population declines amongst large predators and other species atop the food chain, which in turn meant less predation on lower-level organisms, allowing them to multiply relatively unchecked. And because those organisms are the preferred hosts for M. ulcerans, that allowed the bacteria to become more abundant, as well.