Health research commonalities between animals and humans human nature and the environment radiowissen ba 1



By: Hellmuth Nordwig / Broadcast: Iska Schreglmann

Status: 03.09.2015 | Archive

Doctors and veterinarians are two different worlds. But recently it has become clear that it would be worthwhile for both sides to think outside the box of their own discipline from time to time. As far as diseases are concerned, there are many commonalities.

Surprising only at first glance. As early as 19. In the twentieth century, researchers noticed how closely related humans and some ape species are. Genetic research in recent decades has confirmed that there must have been common ancestors: we share 98 percent of our genetic material with chimpanzees. With other mammals, it's at least 80 percent. And that's where we should differ with regard to diseases of all things?

Monkeys and sudden infant death syndrome

"Animals are only human", says the vernacular. In reality, of course, it is the other way around. This is also shown by the fact that we fall ill in a similar way as our animal relatives. So medicine can learn a lot from the diseases of animals. For example, when it comes to the connection between stress and sudden heart failure: Animal keepers and pet owners have long known that birds, rabbits or monkeys can even die from fear. But only recently have doctors begun to investigate whether this could also be the case in humans. And lo and behold: After traumatic events such as earthquakes, the number of cardiac deaths rises. Sudden infant death syndrome could also be explained in this way, according to a new hypothesis that has not yet been proven.

Dromedaries and the lung viruses

Pathogens of infectious diseases are also not choosy when it comes to their hosts. Bacteria, viruses and parasites often make no difference between animals and humans. However, infections in animals are often inconspicuous. Only become a danger to humans. Especially where they live in close contact with animals. One example is the MERS coronavirus – it is actually specialized for dromedaries, in which it only causes a cold. In 2012, it jumped to humans on the Arabian Peninsula, in whose respiratory tract it feels just as comfortable. For us, however, the infection is life-threatening. Other epidemics, such as Ebola, also originate in the animal kingdom.

Kangaroos and the opium rush

In the meantime, research knows many diseases that are common to animals and humans. Cancer, metabolic disorders, circulatory diseases: All of these exist in the animal kingdom, too. Not even addictive behavior is exclusive to us: If you observe closely, you can spot kangaroos lustfully munching in a poppy field or beetles gathering around a pool of red wine. So we humans are just animals in this respect as well.

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