Inherent virus characteristics and host range drive the zoonotic and emerging potential of viruses.
Understanding the zoonotic and emerging potential of viruses is critical to prevent and control spread that can cause disease epidemics or pandemics. We developed a database using the most up-to-date information from the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (4958 virus species) and identified 1479 vertebrate virus species and their host ranges. Viral traits and host ranges were then used as predictors in generalized linear mixed models for three host-associated outcomes - confirmed zoonotic, potential zoonotic and disease emergence. We identified significant interactions between host range and viral characteristics, not previously reported, that influence the zoonotic and emergence potential of viruses. Bat- and livestock-adapted viruses posed high risk, and the risk increased substantially if these viruses were also present in other vertebrates or were not reported from invertebrates. Our model predicted 39 viruses of interest that have never been reported to have zoonotic potential (27) or to potentially become emerging human viruses (12). We conclude that nucleic acid type is important in identifying the zoonotic and emerging potential of viruses. We recommend enhanced surveillance and monitoring of these virus species identified with a zoonotic and emerging potential to mitigate disease outbreaks and future epidemics.