A recent meta-analysis published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests an alignment between conservation and human health initiatives. This finding is somewhat intuitive to some, considering that "...human pathogens spend part of their life cycle inside another animal, like a mouse or shrew."
A mosquito or deer tick, for example, may then transmit this bacteria to humans. An increase in the number of different species that house human pathogens, known as the dilution effect, may reduce the spread of this bacteria.
Jessie Rack, the author of the linked NPR piece, summarizes, "In other words, the disease is diluted among the different species. So a tick or mosquito is less likely to feed on an infected animal and less likely to pass that infection to a person."
Ecologist David Civitello found that the dilution effect took place in practice, in some instances. Peer ecologists have challenged Civitello's assertion regarding the overlap between disease control and conservation.
University of Michigan's Chelsea Wood calls for the further study of "...a cross-section of parasite diversity." Even Civitello agrees, "We need to understand why biodiversity affects some pathogens and the risk for disease, and for others biodiversity doesn't seem to matter."
One obvious point that comes to mind is the conflict that would exist if conservation and human health efforts were opposing (as well as resulting publication biases explaining an alignment). As the article suggests, what if deforestation limited the spread of these noted pathogens?
Earlier this month, scientists at the University of South Florida reported evidence that higher biodiversity in environments, such as forests in the northeastern U.S. and the Amazon basin in South America, may lower people's chances of getting animal-borne diseases.