This Jaw-Dropping Visualization Shows the Extent to Which Diseases Spread Among Species

Around 60% of all human diseases and some 75% of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, meaning they spread from species to species. This remarkable visualization shows how these problematic pathogens proliferate among the animals.

A research team from the UK collected data from 1950 to 2012 to create a database of host-pathogen and related species interactions, along with their global distribution. Their resulting visualization maps the overlapping relationships between infectious agents, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and the hosts they infect.


Each node, shown as a dot, represents a vertebrate species—such as chickens, rats, and rabbits—and the size of each node depends on the number of unique pathogens that tend to infect a particular species. So that big red dot labeled “human” means we’re the species cursed with the most unique pathogens. Dogs, pigs, and cattle aren’t too far behind.

All animals are color-coded into nine distinct groups, including humans, mammals, domestics, reptiles, fish, and so on. Interestingly, rodents, as a subset of mammals, get their own group.

Lines strewn between two nodes mean they both share at least one possible pathogen species. The thickness of each connection is proportional to the number of possible pathogen species shared between the species.


Clearly, humans and their mammalian domestics share diseases on the regular. We also seem to have some rather serious linkages to both the rodents group and lizards group, the latter probably indicating the spread of Salmonella and other related pathogens.

Read the entire study at Nature: “Database of host-pathogen and related species interactions, and their global distribution”.


H/t Wired!

Email the author at and follow him at @dvorsky. Top image by Cynthia Goldsmith, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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