Could the next generation of killer diseases come from the family pet? Scientists say cats and dogs 'large potential source' of human diseases

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By Mark Prigg

PUBLISHED: 11:48 EST, 12 November 2012 | UPDATED: 12:33 EST, 12 November 2012

A new generation of killer diseases set to hit mankind could come from cats and dogs, a study has found.

Scientists say human beings will soon be infecting serious illnesses which have spread from their domestic pets.

A report found the risk to humans from animal-based 'emerging diseases' has increased as pets have moved 'out of the barn' and into homes.

Researchers say that domestic pets such as this Afghan Hound could be the source of the next major diseases to jump between animals and humans.

Researchers say that domestic pets such as this Afghan Hound could be the source of the next major diseases to jump between animals and humans.

It says people are becoming more and more at risk because pets are increasingly part of their owner's lives - including sleeping in their bedrooms.

The report says diseases in humans started by animals will be increasingly virulent - like canine rabies which kills around 55,000 people in Africa and Asia each year.

It calls for global monitoring of these 'zoonotic' diseases - spreads from animals to humans - so medicines and vaccines can be developed.

The study was led by Michael Day, Professor of Veterinary Pathology in the School of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Bristol and published in journal Emerging Infectious Diseases,

He says cats and dogs are a 'large potential source' of the new generation of diseases set to hit mankind.

Professor Day said: 'The number of small companion animals is significant.

For example there are an estimated eight to ten million dogs living in up to 31 per cent of UK homes and in the USA, 72 million dogs in 37 per cent of homes.

'In developed countries the relationship between man and dogs and cats has deepened, with these animals now closely sharing the human indoor environment.

'The benefits of pet ownership on human health, well-being and development are unquestionable, but as dogs and cats have moved from the barn, to the house, to the bedroom, the potential for disease spread to humans increases.'

Researchers say the increased number of owners who sleep with their pets has increased the risk of diseases spreading from them to their owners

Researchers say the increased number of owners who sleep with their pets has increased the risk of diseases spreading from them to their owners

The report was backed by The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), One Health Committee, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The report said international health agencies largely monitor diseases spread by livestock - not domestic pets.

Professor Day added: 'For example, the WHO monitors human influenza virus infection through a network of 111 centres in 83 countries.

'In contrast, there is no such monitoring for the infections that may be transmitted between small companion animals and man.'

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