Humans may be more vulnerable to catching diseases from great apes chimpanzees and gorillas as these species are the closest relatives to us, says research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, today (Wednesday 30 April 2008).
Researchers from the Universities of California and Sheffield show that humans are almost four times more likely to share infectious diseases and viruses with chimpanzees which last shared a common ancestor with humans around 8 million years ago, than with a colobus monkey, which diverged from humans over 34 million years ago.
Emerging infectious diseases are increasingly impacting human health and species conservation. Many of the most deadly diseases known to mankind have originated among wild animals, for example AIDS and Ebola and these new findings could prove critical in predicting future trends of emerging diseases.
Dr Jonathan Davies, from the University of California and co-author of the study, said: "Infectious diseases crossing species barriers pose a huge and increasing threat to human health and the conservation of wild species. Our study helps us to understand where and how diseases jump between species, and provides a critical first step in predicting future outbreaks."