van Helden, L., van Helden, P.D., Meiring, C. (2020). Pathogens of Vertebrate Animals as Invasive Species: Insights from South Africa. In: van Wilgen, B., Measey, J., Richardson, D., Wilson, J., Zengeya, T. (eds) Biological Invasions in South Africa. Invading Nature - Springer Series in Invasion Ecology, vol 14. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32394-3_10
The study of disease organisms as invasive alien species has not received a great deal of attention in the field of invasion science. Introduced pathogens can have profound effects on living organisms, the ecosystems that they inhabit, and the economies that the ecosystems support. In this chapter, we use case studies of introduced diseases of domestic and wild animals (canine rabies, bovine tuberculosis, and rinderpest) and humans (smallpox, measles and human immunodeficiency virus, HIV) to illustrate the kinds of effects that these pathogens can have. The most dramatic impact to date was that of rinderpest, which caused the death of millions of cattle, and practically annihilated certain forms of wildlife from large parts of southern Africa. This in turn impacted severely on the region’s economy, and resulted in large-scale changes to the structure and dynamics of ecosystems. Rinderpest has been eradicated globally, but both canine rabies and bovine tuberculosis remain, and ongoing vigilance and management will be required to contain them. Of the human diseases, smallpox has also been eradicated globally, but the effect of the disease, introduced by European colonists, was devastating. In the early 1700s, a large proportion (up to 90% in some communities) of the indigenous Khoekhoe people died, destroying their culture and way of life, and leaving the few survivors to be recruited as farm labourers. HIV, first detected in South Africa in 1982 has also had substantial impacts and antiretroviral treatment alone currently costs the government ZAR 66.4 billion annually. We also include West Nile Virus and African Swine Fever as examples of diseases that originated in Africa, and that may yet become globally destructive. We predict that new diseases will emerge as humans continue to expand their range into wild areas, and as trade volumes increase.