LONDON, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- By driving molecular changes in diseases, mass livestock production can potentially lead to human pandemics, according to a scientist quoted in a press release posted online by the University of Exeter on Monday.
Rapidly rising global poultry numbers, along with selective breeding and production techniques which have dramatically altered the bodies of chickens and other poultry, have made the planet more "infectable", said Professor Stephen Hinchliffe from the the University of Exeter.
In recent years, there has been an increasing number of avian influenza outbreak in various regions. Some current forms of avian influenza (also known as avian flu or bird flu) are capable of infecting people.
"Avian flu might often be presented as a problem of infected wild birds spreading the disease, but to understand it fully, we need to think about pathological lives -- issues caused by our economies and modes of organizing life," said Professor Hinchliffe.
Avian flu has been around for a long time, circulating in wild birds without too much of an issue, but "as inexpensively produced protein-rich diets become a worldwide norm, poultry populations, growth rates and metabolisms have changed accordingly," said Hinchliffe. This is due to economic pressure driving selective breeding, feed and dietary supplements, changing housing regimes, population densities and sometimes inappropriate use of veterinary medicines like antibiotics, according to Hinchliffe.
A microbe can only become deadly or pathogenic if there are the right environmental and host conditions, added Hinchliffe.
Hinchliffe and other three researchers from the Open University have explored the topic in their new book Pathological Lives.