Why do global pandemics like COVID-19 materialize? To address this question, we must dive into the world of pathogens that transcend their original host species and jump into new ones. Upon attempts to jump into new hosts, most pathogens fail to initiate infection or spread in the population. Only a few sustain onward chains of transmission, and even fewer sustain these indefinitely. Yet such fatal jumps have been at the origin of many of humanity's most dangerous infectious diseases.
In Fatal Jump: Tracking the Origins of Pandemics, Dr Leslie Reperant analyses the circumstances that have ignited the surge of new pathogens in humans. From the often-overlooked but crucial point of view of a veterinary disease ecologist, Reperant investigates mysteries such as how African-originated monkeypox left its home continent and shares behind-the-scenes insights into hugely destructive pathogens spread by ticks and mosquitos. Drawing from the latest science, she discusses whether we can predict these deadly jumps before they happen and what factors – environmental change, population dynamics, and molecular evolution – enable a pathogen to reach full pandemic status. Rich with recent scientific discoveries and emerging theories, this book spans a vast and diverse range of disciplines and weaves these insights into a holistic view of emerging infectious diseases.
With new pathogens emerging at an ever-increasing pace, Fatal Jump reorients our perspective on infectious diseases and pandemics from the human-centred standpoint to the bigger picture. Only by recognizing the increasingly global nature of human society, and the connections between our planet's environmental health and our own health, will we understand what actions are necessary to reverse this trend.
Leslie Reperant (Utrechtse Heuvelrug, the Netherlands) is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and earned a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton University. She has published her research in the field of emerging infectious diseases in leading scientific journals, including The Lancet and Science.
"An essential one-stop shop for all you need to know about the evolution and emergence of infectious diseases. Reperant gives us a comprehensive, compelling, and beautifully written account of the origin of epidemics, seamlessly combining data from the evolutionary, ecological, and genomic fields. A truly remarkable achievement."
– Edward Holmes, University of Sydney
"Leslie Reperant traces the source of infections that sicken and kill humans by meticulously describing the origins of infection-causing organisms and their manipulative and unpredictable behavior in hosts ranging from ants and grasshoppers to wild and domestic animals. A masterpiece of research and writing and a must-read for anyone who has ever wondered about the origins of infectious diseases."
– David Heymann, MD, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; editor, Control of Communicable Diseases Manual
"Leslie Reperant's book eloquently brings together threads from many different areas of biology, epidemiology, and veterinary science. She creates a marvelous tapestry to show how pathogens emerge, get established, and spread in host populations. There are new insights here that are fundamental to our understanding of how pathogens impact the health of individuals and the populations they live in. Ecologists, epidemiologists, and veterinarians will all learn something new from Dr. Reperant's insightful and multilayered perspective."
– Andy Dobson, Princeton University
"An intriguing account of the complex interaction between pathogens and us, through deep history to now and COVID-19. The narrative probes issues with evolution, discusses our defense mechanisms, and looks at how viruses in particular jump from other warm-blooded vertebrates into us. This is an informative and interesting read."
– Peter Doherty, Nobel laureate, University of Melbourne; author of An Insider's Plague Year
"Perhaps the most encyclopedic book yet about why diseases have always plagued humanity and why so many new ones are emerging. The tale ranges from how infection among the earliest living things shaped life on Earth – including us – to how the evolutionary war between germs and their victims molded our past and threatens our future. Above all, it shows why COVID was no surprise and why, unless we make some big changes, more pandemics like it – or worse – are coming."
– Debora MacKenzie, author of COVID-19: The Pandemic that Never Should Have Happened, and How to Stop the Next One