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New study explores wet markets and the risk of emerging zoonotic diseases

Makara market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Emerging zoonotic diseases can spread from animals to people where there is an interface allowing pathogens to jump the species barriers. Crowded conditions, where different species intermingle, increase these interfaces. Zoonotic diseases exert a significant burden on human health and have considerable socioeconomic impact worldwide.

The World Health Organization reports that there are currently more than 200 known types of zoonotic diseases. The health and economic cost of these diseases falls largely on poorer countries which bear 98% of the global burden of zoonoses.

In Asia, live animals as well as animal products are commonly sold in traditional markets, sometimes referred to as ‘live’ or ‘wet’ markets. The interaction of people, live domestic animals for sale, food products, and wild and scavenging animals at these markets creates a risk for emerging infectious diseases.

Live and wet markets have been linked to the emergence of zoonotic viruses, for example, avian influenza viruses and coronaviruses. These markets are also an important source of foodborne pathogens.

A new study published in Trends in Microbiology (July 2021) presents data on the global impact of live and wet markets on the emergence of zoonotic diseases.

The study discusses how benefits can be maximized and risks minimized and concludes that current regulations should be implemented or revised to mitigate the risk of new diseases emerging in the future.

In addition, improved biosecurity measures and continuous monitoring are needed to reduce the risks of zoonotic disease transmission.


Naguib, M.M., Ruiyun Li, Jiaxin Ling, Grace, D., Hung Nguyen-Viet and Lindahl, J.F. 2021. Live and wet markets: Food access versus the risk of disease emergence. Trends in Microbiology 29(7): 573–581.

Photo credit: Makara market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (photo credit: ILRI/Hardisman Dasman).


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