In a 2007 report, the World Health Organization warned: the number of diseases dangerous to humanity is growing rapidly. Only new infectious diseases between the 1970s and 2007, more than 40 were discovered. Since then, the trend has not only persisted, but has increased even more in pace. If in the International Classification of Diseases, approved by WHO in the same year 2007 (ICD-10), approximately 14,400 types of disorders were mentioned by approximate calculations, then ICD-11 (according to preliminary data will come into force in 2022) has approximately 55,000 diseases. But researchers fear that by 2020 the list of diseases known to mankind will increase further.
Where do new diseases come from?
Not so long ago, mankind did not even know about AIDS, bird and swine flu, Ebola, Zika, but also allergies, obesity, depression, and oncology already familiar to modern people in the 20th century were something out of the ordinary. Where do new diseases come from? This question interests researchers for a long time, and today there are already several versions.
According to UN forecasts, by 2050, the world's population will reach approximately 10 billion people. All these people will need a place to live and food. And this means only one thing: the processes of migration, urbanization and the development of new, yet not populated territories, will accelerate.
From the point of view of virologists and researchers studying the nature of human diseases, this is a very frightening tendency, contributing to the emergence of new and the spread of already known pathogens through uncharacteristic locations. For example, as a result of the "cultivation" of wild territories, large predators leave them, and small rodents, such as rats and mice, quickly multiply and spread pathogens dangerous to humans.
When scientists talk about new diseases, they usually mean either infections that have started affecting people recently, or diseases that have gone beyond their geographical scope and spread quickly, threatening a large number of people.
New diseases can be caused by the following reasons:
- previously unknown infectious agents;
- already known agents that have spread to new, uncharacteristic territories for themselves, or have begun to infect populations that were previously resistant to the virus;
- agents whose role in specific diseases has not been previously recognized;
- the reappearance of viruses that in the past caused diseases, but over time the frequency of diseases has decreased significantly, and now has resumed. This class of diseases is known as re-emerging infections.
In addition, there is the likelihood of diseases caused by viruses intentionally introduced into populations of people, animals or plants. In this case, talking about biological weapons. Of the currently known agents that can be used in bioterrorism, anthrax, smallpox and tularemia are considered the most dangerous.
Factors causing new infections
There are many factors that scientists associate with the emergence of new infectious diseases. Some of these are the result of natural processes, such as the evolution of pathogens. But many are a consequence of human activity.
In order for specialists to recognize the emergence of a new disease, at least two events must occur. First, the infectious agent must penetrate the body of a vulnerable person, and secondly, the virus should be able to spread freely, infecting new people.
Many of the new diseases occur when infectious agents that previously only infect animals are transmitted to humans. These are called zoonoses. As the population grows and the geographic boundaries of humans expand and expand, the likelihood that humans will begin to more closely contact animals that are potential carriers of infection increases.
Another important factor that can cause another outbreak of diseases is acquired antimicrobial resistance of pathogens. Bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms can evolve over time and develop drug resistance. Therefore, drugs that have been effective in the past may eventually become useless. In addition, improper use of antimicrobial agents by a person, without the recommendation of a physician, also leads to the resistance of pathogens to drugs.
Climate change is also increasingly being called a factor in the emergence of new infectious diseases. For example, warming allowed mosquitoes (and the diseases they suffer) to expand their range and inhabit the regions where they had not previously met. In new conditions, insect-borne pathogens begin to mutate. As a result, humanity receives an unpleasant surprise in the form of a new, previously unknown disease.
The principle of the formation of new diseases
Influenza is a vivid example of how pathogens can mutate due to both natural and human factors. Influenza virus is notorious for its ability to genetically modify. If very strong changes happen, the flu can cause a pandemic, since most people’s immune systems do not have memory cells for this pathogen and will not be ready to recognize a new enemy to protect themselves from it.
The risks of serious mutations increase when people coexist in close proximity with farm animals such as pigs, chickens or ducks. These animals are the natural carriers of the influenza virus and can play the role of a “vessel” in which different strains of the virus are mixed to create new ones. The avian flu virus H5N1 (avian) appeared more than 20 years ago in Hong Kong. At first, the infection only got into the organisms of people directly in contact with birds, but at some point the situation changed and the number of infected people increased dramatically. The human H5N1 virus is fatal: half of the infections have been fatal. So far, this pathogen is not able to spread very quickly among people, but if genetic changes occur in it, it can cause a pandemic on the planet. In contrast, the H1N1 virus, known as swine flu, can easily be passed from person to person. The outbreak that occurred in 2009 showed that this type of flu can spread around the planet faster than any other. But, fortunately, he is not as deadly as the bird. Although if it mutates, it can also turn into a serious threat to humanity.
The cases of SARS and MERS (very severe respiratory diseases) are another example of how quickly infectious diseases can spread throughout the world and affect people in the regions for which these diseases are completely new.
Another example of a relatively new infectious disease is HIV. It is believed that for the first time, people were infected with HIV after close contact with chimpanzees. It may have happened while hunting wild animals in isolated regions of Africa. It is possible that then HIV spread from rural areas to cities, and then to other continents.
One example of a tropical disease that has recently spread to new regions is the chikungunya virus. The carrier of the infection is a special kind of mosquitoes living in the Indian Ocean region. But in 2014, chikungunya fever outbreaks were reported in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America. This virus is not fatal to humans, but it serves as a warning that this is how more terrible tropical infections can spread and mutate.
The latest discoveries of scientists
Candida auris is a new type of fungus that causes invasive candidiasis (the fungus penetrates the bloodstream, affects the nervous system, kidneys, liver, muscles, joints, bone tissue, spleen, eyes). The uniqueness of this mushroom is that it is resistant to most medications. It is difficult to detect using classical methods of identifying yeast, as the fungus is masked by other species of Candida. It can survive on surfaces even after being treated with strong disinfectants. The fungus was first discovered in Japan in 2009, but already in 2016 it reached Asia, Europe and the USA. It spreads very quickly in India, Pakistan, South Africa, Kenya, Colombia and Venezuela.
Elizabethkingia anophelis is a new bacterium for scientists that causes neonatal meningitis. The first case of the disease, provoked by this bacillus, was recorded in 2016 in the United States. Similar cases were in Central Africa and Singapore. Of the 61 confirmed cases of infection, Elizabethkingia anophelis 21 was fatal. Today, methods of transmission and infection of the infection are little known.
Dysphoria - this new term denotes the modern type of psychological disorder, manifested in a state of anxiety, anxiety and dissatisfaction with life. Currently, there are many scientific evidence that the use of smartphones and other "smart" gadgets leads to disorientation and anxiety. The problem with new smart technologies is that they break the usual ways of thinking and communicating: users jump from site to site (without lingering on one page for a long time), as a result of which they lose the ability to extract from the read / seen information deep meaning. And it is also one of the new diseases of modern man.
Selfies - a completely new mental disorder, which consists in the constant desire of a person to photograph themselves on a smartphone. Scientists have even divided the manifestation of the disease into stages. The first is when a person takes a selfie at least three times a day, but does not post his photos on social networks. In the second stage, the self-artist is not yet "turned" on photographing his beloved one always and everywhere, but all the photos that he has appeared immediately spread on the Internet. The third stage of self-affliction can be suspected if a person has more than 6 personal photos on a social network page every day.
The line between rest and addiction is sometimes very thin. Back in 2013, the American Psychiatric Association called the dependence on the Internet and computer games a problem that requires close attention. In ICD-10, game addiction is not yet listed as a real disease, but in the 11th edition of the classifier, this disease already exists. Studies conducted by scientists at Columbia University have shown that people with gambling addiction often suffer from various mental disorders, including depression and anxiety. Researchers speculate that since the improvement in virtual reality technology makes games even more exciting and "real", the addiction among gamers will only grow.
In addition, researchers have identified two more problems that threaten humanity through the Internet. This is cyberchordia and cyberhondria. Cyberchordia is a chronic reluctance to delete information collected on the network. Cyberhondria is an obsessive desire to use search engines and websites for self-diagnosis, as well as to find confirmation of their medical fears. By the way, according to scientists, both problems are currently underestimated, but they exist and are rapidly spreading.
For the first time, scientists began talking about typhoid tendonitis in 2005. The disease occurs in people who write a lot of messages on phones or other gadgets. The result is pain and swelling of the fingers. Often the disease is accompanied by dizziness, muscle pain and loss of appetite.
New genetic diseases
Russian geneticist Nadezhda Maximova discovered and described a new genetic disorder that causes the death of babies. The cause of the disease is gene mutations. The consequence is that babies have an irreversible metabolic disorder, due to which the life expectancy is no more than three years.
Nowadays, at least 600 diseases are known that are provoked by the mutation of human genes. One of these is chronic atrial fibrillation syndrome. The disease is discovered by Canadian scientists. Patients are simultaneously diagnosed with a slow heart rate, requiring implantation of a pacemaker, and chronic intestinal obstruction, requiring the patient to be completely transferred to parenteral nutrition.
All phobias, of course, do not list. We will tell only about the most amazing, open and described in recent years. One of the most common - the boss phobia, that is, fear of the leader. Telephonophobia occurs among those who, for various reasons, are afraid to talk on the phone. If the risk of getting stuck in a traffic jam causes a strong panic in a person, then this suggests a traffic phobia. Nowadays it has become fashionable to lead a healthy lifestyle and keep an eye on the figure. But for many girls (and not only girls) the appearance of even 1 additional kilogram ends in a deep anxious and depressive state. Psychologists say that this is not just a man's caprice, but the real thick-phobia is the fear of getting better.
What diseases can threaten a person in the near future
It is difficult for even the most experienced specialists to predict with accuracy what new diseases may still threaten a person in the near future, but some dangers look quite realistic.
Antibiotic resistant E. coli
About the possible occurrence of bacteria resistant to antibiotics, experts have been talking for more than a decade. The reason for this is the abuse of antibiotics both in medicine and in animal husbandry. Also, experts do not advise to place very high hopes that a new, more powerful antibiotic will be developed. There is no infinite number of compounds that can kill bacteria, but do not harm humans. Researchers at George Washington University suggest that antibiotic-resistant E. Coli (E. coli) may not be the cause of civilization's death, but it will make humanity as vulnerable as it was before the discovery of antibiotics.
Deadly tick-borne diseases
Lyme disease transmitted by ticks has long gone beyond its geographical scope. Nowadays, the disease affects people even in those regions where they didn’t even know about its existence before. And every year the situation is only getting worse, and the viruses transmitted by ticks may mutate in the near future.
Everyone knows that the climate on the planet is changing. In areas that were previously known as arid, warm, prolonged rains have been increasingly frequent lately. This can lead to the migration of mosquitoes to new lands. Changing the habitat of mosquitoes can lead to the spread of diseases transmitted through their bites and to the formation of new diseases due to mutations of viruses inside the mosquito. The result is new diseases.
Viruses from the Arctic permafrost
Scientists assume that viruses that are incredibly dangerous for humanity are stored in the permafrost.By the way, researchers have already discovered the virus DNA in the Siberian ice, which is about 30 thousand years old. Scientists say deep ocean sediments and permafrost are very good preservatives for germs and viruses. The surface layers of the permafrost are melting and faster and faster each year, releasing the microorganisms in the permafrost. If the most dangerous of them reach the surface, it may end in a global epidemic.
Diseases of the immune system caused by nanoparticles
Nanoparticles are microscopic elements of natural or synthetic origin. Nowadays, they are used in everything from pharmaceuticals to food dyes. Nevertheless, studies show that they can unpredictably violate the functions of the immune system: to strengthen it or inhibit it. Moreover, the results of some studies show that nanoparticles can destroy the cell membrane and cause DNA damage.
New diseases are a real threat to humanity. Let many of the problems described are still very far from us, but scientists all over the world are already struggling to create the next “magic pill” capable of saving the population of the planet from potential death.
Specialty: therapist, nephrologist.
Total experience: 18 years.
Place of work: Novorossiysk, medical center "Nefros".
Education: 1994-2000 Stavropol State Medical Academy.
- 2014 - "Therapy" full-time advanced training courses on the basis of the State Budgetary Medical Educational Institution of Higher Professional Training "Kuban State Medical University".
- 2014 - "Nephrology" full-time refresher courses on the basis of the Stavropol State Medical University.