Covid-19 is a sign that humanity has entered a "pandemic era" and is likely to face a cascade of other dangerous diseases, the US government's top infectious disease expert has warned.

Human activity is greatly contributing to the emergence of new diseases and scientific advances will not alone be able to stop them, Anthony Fauci and epidemiologist David Morens warn.

The emergence of potentially deadly viruses, like Sars in 2002 from a civet cat, Mers in 2012 from a camel, and now Covid-19, is likely to continue.

Those recent viruses skipping from animals to humans suggests they "are only the latest examples of a deadly barrage of coming coronavirus and other emergences," the authors wrote in Cell, a scientific journal.

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Pandemics have arisen throughout human history, but as societies get larger and more complicated "we create an endless variety of opportunities for genetically unstable infectious agents to emerge".

The authors from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said while that situation was not new, "we now live in a human-dominated world in which our increasingly extreme alterations of the environment induce increasingly extreme backlashes from nature".

The true toll of coronavirus is believed to be grossly undercounted. Photo / File
The true toll of coronavirus is believed to be grossly undercounted. Photo / File

The new coronavirus has upended life in the past eight months and killed more than 800,000 people and infected more than 26 million.

Those figures are thought to be extensive undercounts, while lockdown precautions to halt its spread put economies into hibernation and caused huge financial losses.

A vaccine is thought to be months off; some health officials say it is not expected for at least a year. Yet the authors argue that medical advances may not be enough to fend off a coming wave of diseases.

"Science will surely bring us many life-saving drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics," the paper said. "However, there is no reason to think that these alone can overcome the threat of ever more frequent and deadly emergences of infectious diseases."

The arrival of the pandemic was a reminder that "in a human-dominated world, in which our human activities represent aggressive, damaging, and unbalanced interactions with nature, we will increasingly provoke new disease emergences", the paper said.

Fauci has become a household name in the US for his analysis and guidance during the pandemic, but has frequently been at odds with Donald Trump.

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The paper said humanity remained at risk for the foreseeable future.

"Covid-19 is among the most vivid wake-up calls in over a century. It should force us to begin to think in earnest and collectively about living in more thoughtful and creative harmony with nature, even as we plan for nature's inevitable, and always unexpected, surprises," it concluded.