Over a year before COVID-19 was first detected, biologists at the University of Warsaw published “Bats, Coronaviruses, and Deforestation,” a paper that links the rapid destruction of the natural habitats of bats to the spread of coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.
Published in April 2018, the article describes how the homes of bats in the rainforests of Southeast Asia have been reduced by 50 percent over the last 70 years, putting the disease-carrying animals in closer contact with humans than ever before. It then details that 31 percent of the viruses that bats are capable of carrying are different forms of coronaviruses. Finally, it ends with a prophetic warning: “The risk of newly emerging CoVs-associated diseases in the future should be considered seriously.”
The total amount of infectious disease outbreaks around the world has been steadily increasing over the last four decades, according to a 2014 study by Brown University scientists. During that time, the world’s forest coverage has been reduced to half its size. The majority (60 percent) of these new outbreaks were animal-borne (zoonotic) diseases, including the Ebola virus, SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, H1N1 “swine flu,” Nipah virus and many others. The Brown University scientists therefore attributed this recent global rise in infectious disease primarily to an increase in “pathogens spilling over to humans from wildlife.”