Three reasons why expanded use of natural enemy solutions may offer sustainable control of human infections.
Many infectious pathogens spend a significant portion of their life cycles in the environment or in animal hosts, where ecological interactions with natural enemies may influence pathogen transmission to people. Yet, our understanding of natural enemy opportunities for human disease control is lacking, despite widespread uptake and success of natural enemy solutions for pest and parasite management in agriculture. Here we explore three reasons why conserving, restoring or augmenting specific natural enemies in the environment could offer a promising complement to conventional clinical strategies to fight environmentally mediated pathogens and parasites. (a) Natural enemies of human infections abound in nature, largely understudied and undiscovered; (b) natural enemy solutions could provide ecological options for infectious disease control where conventional interventions are lacking; and, (c) many natural enemy solutions could provide important co-benefits for conservation and human well-being. We illustrate these three arguments with a broad set of examples whereby natural enemies of human infections have been used or proposed to curb human disease burden, with some clear successes. However, the evidence base for most proposed solutions is sparse, and many opportunities likely remain undiscovered, highlighting opportunities for future research.