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How accurately can we assess zoonotic risk?

Abstract

Identifying the animal reservoirs from which zoonotic viruses will likely emerge is central to understanding the determinants of disease emergence. Accordingly, there has been an increase in studies attempting zoonotic “risk assessment.” Herein, we demonstrate that the virological data on which these analyses are conducted are incomplete, biased, and rapidly changing with ongoing virus discovery. Together, these shortcomings suggest that attempts to assess zoonotic risk using available virological data are likely to be inaccurate and largely only identify those host taxa that have been studied most extensively. We suggest that virus surveillance at the human–animal interface may be more productive.

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