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Panel of Experts Calls for Closer Collaboration Between Human and Animal Health

Dog touching hand with paw

Experts in animal and human health called on the medical, veterinary, public health and related healthcare communities to collaborate more closely to prevent and combat diseases on two fronts:

  • Infectious diseases that can be passed between animals and people, such as influenza, rabies, Ebola virus and West Nile virus
  • Diseases that are common to animals and people, such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes and allergies

A panel of experts in both human and animal healthcare called for greater collaboration in combating the increasing threat of animal-transmitted infectious diseases and to more effectively innovate under the umbrella of this new initiative to prevent and treat common chronic diseases that are common to animals and people. This call to action came at a satellite symposium held today at the 3rd International One Health Congress in Amsterdam*. The event was sponsored by the animal health company Zoetis.

People and Animals are More Closely Linked Than Ever Before

Ever expanding suburban development means more people are encroaching on dwindling natural reserves, bringing people and livestock in ever closer contact with wild animals. At the same time, more and more urban dwellers are adopting companion animals, and these pets are more integrated in family life, and live in closer contact with their human masters. People and animals are more closely linked than ever before, thus zoonotic diseases, those transmitted between animals and humans, represent a very real concern, and not only in the developing world.1

Animal-transmitted infectious diseases will continue to be a major health challenge in the future. More than 60 percent of all infectious diseases that plague mankind are of wild animal origin and 75 percent of emerging human diseases are zoonotic.1,3 Zoonotic diseases are likely to increase in prevalence as a result not only of the increasingly close association with animals, but also increased global travel, and the ongoing trade in exotic animals, to mention just a few examples.1 As effective preventative measures are beyond the abilities of any one healthcare organisation, a diverse collection of private and public organisations, researchers, physicians and veterinarians are increasingly collaborating under the banner of ‘One Health’ to protect both human and animal health, as well as to ensure the supply of safe and affordable food.1

“Animal health is also about human health and the linkage between the two is fundamental, whether we are talking about zoonotic diseases that can be passed between animals and people or chronic disease that affect people and animals alike,” said Anton Pijpers, Professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Utrecht.

Alejandro Bernal, Chairman of IFAH-Europe*, the organization representing manufacturers of veterinary medicines, vaccines and other animal health products in Europe explained: “Detecting and controlling disease in animals should not only occur after human cases, which is too often the case, it should start when outbreaks of zoonotic diseases are first seen in animals. Therefore, an integrated human-animal approach rather than the classical, separated approach is needed; with the rational use of anti-infectives, vaccines and other control measures in both humans and animals. The current collaboration and business model is not optimal today. There are tools, methodologies and competencies to approach these challenges, but there is a need to invest in sustainable new solutions, and more importantly, to improve cooperation between human and animal health.”

Better Collaboration Now to Face Tomorrow’s Problems

Organisations such as IFAH, EFPIA*, WHO*, FAO* and OIE* need to work together with national governments to capture the direct and indirect impacts of zoonotic diseases – and to publish the associated costs, which would over time lead to more focus on zoonotic disease prevention and control rather than treatment once humans are affected.

Magda Chlebus, Director of Science Policy at the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) stressed that, "Human, animal and environmental health face many common or related challenges. Success in addressing these will, more than ever, rely on our ability to integrate know-how, sciences and technologies from many sectors and companies. The threat of resistant bacteria is a challenge that requires such a collaboration and coordination.” The EFPIA invited animal health companies to jointly address the One Health challenge in the framework of the EU public-private Innovative Medicines Initiative.

Affirming its commitment to One Health collaborations, Michelle Haven, a veterinarian and Senior Vice President of Corporate Development, Alliances and Solutions at Zoetis said, “We are enthusiastic about the idea of fostering closer collaboration between human and animal health. We firmly believe it could lead to the faster development of sophisticated health tools and technologies that will not only better protect against infectious diseases, but also help tackle some of the major chronic disease challenges of the 21st century, such as cardiovascular disease and osteoarthritis. A One Health approach may also provide added value to new biotech and start-up companies that could potentially commercialize their inventions earlier in the veterinary market.”

Haven mentioned two examples in which taking a One Health approach to control zoonotic disease have met with success. Multidisciplinary groups have coalesced under the banner of One Health with the aim of eradicating rabies in both dogs and humans before 2030. She also noted a collaboration between Zoetis, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation in Australia and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation to develop a vaccine to control the Hendra virus, a zoonotic disease that can be life-threatening to horses and people and can have a significant economic impact. As Prof. Adrian Hill, Head of the Jenner Institute, Oxford University explained: “Often the shutting down and quarantining of areas due to a disease outbreak is a more significant loss than the actual infection or animal destruction. Media reactions and economic slowdown are much more impactful than the disease itself. That was what happened with the Hendra virus outbreaks in Australia.”

One Health Collaboration to Prevent Chronic Diseases

The One Health collaborative approach goes beyond animal-borne diseases infecting humans; it also includes ‘translational’ medicine. This is where knowledge in certain areas is applied to others. For example, many similar diseases occur in both animals and humans: osteoarthritis, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and a variety of cancers, to name just a few. In these cases, knowledge accumulated in one area of research can be translated into solutions in other species. [9] Practical examples of this include the sharing of compound libraries between animal and human health researchers, and the development of new in vivo models at the preclinical research stage that accelerate the development of new medicines. There are financial benefits as well, with products finding new uses and new markets in different species. Zoetis is active in the area of translational medicine, providing expertise in veterinary biopharmaceuticals (monoclonal antibodies and other therapeutic proteins) for the evaluation of targets beyond rodent species.

There is a growing priority that human and animal health organisations should strengthen their links to be ready to tackle tomorrow’s problems. As a concrete contribution to the One Health initiative, Zoetis is organising expert roundtable discussions with representatives from health bodies in both human and animal health. These discussions will take place on 17 March 2015 and will focus on ways to improve collaboration at both the human and animal health levels.



* IOHC Satellite Symposium - Monday 16th March 2015

Similar diseases – Similar solutions: A Call for a Closer Collaboration between Animal and Human Health

1. Mr Alejandro Bernal – Chairman of the International Federation of Animal Health (IFAH) Europe – IFAH’s perspective on “One Health” - Belgium
2. Mrs Magda Chlebus – Director of Science Policy of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) – EFPIA’s interests in “One Health” and opportunities through the Innovative Medicine Initiative (IMI) – Belgium
3. Professor Anton Pijpers – Vice President of the Executive Board of Utrecht University – The interlink between healthy people and animal health – The Netherlands
4. Professor Adrian Hill - Head of the Jenner Institute, Oxford University – Rapid responses to new epidemics – UK `
5. Dr Emmanuel Hanon – Senior Vice President, Head of Vaccine Discovery & Development at GSK – The need for “One Health” innovation and alliances in human health – Belgium
6. Dr Michelle Haven – Senior Vice President, Head of Corporate Development, Alliances and Solutions at Zoetis – The need for “One Health” innovation and alliances in animal health – USA

1. Kahn LH, Kaplan B, Steele JH (2007) Confronting zoonoses through closer collaboration between medicine and veterinary medicine (as 'one medicine'). Vet Ital 43: 5-19. 
2. Bidaisee S, Macpherson CN (2014) Zoonoses and one health: a review of the literature. J Parasitol Res 2014: 874345. 
3. (2011) French position on the One Health concept. Paris: French Ministry of European and Foreign Affairs. 
4.(2014) Rabies: Fact Sheet #99. Geneva: World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs099/en/ Last accessed February 2015. 
5. Fooks AR, Banyard AC, Horton DL, Johnson N, McElhinney LM, et al. (2014) Current status of rabies and prospects for elimination. Lancet 384: 1389-1399. 
6. Global Alert and Response (GAR): Hendra Virus (HeV) Infection. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/csr/disease/hendra/en/ Last accessed February 2015.
7. Middleton D (2014) Hendra virus. Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract 30: 579-589. 
8. Eisler MC, Lee MR, Tarlton JF, Martin GB, Beddington J, et al. (2014) Agriculture: Steps to sustainable livestock. Nature 507: 32-34. 
9. Lerner H, Berg C. (2015) The concept of health in One Health and some practical implications for research and education: what is One Health? Infect Ecol Epidemiol. 2015:25300.

CSIRO: Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
EFPIA: European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations
FAO: Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations
IFAH: International Federation of Animal Health
OIE: World Organization for Animal Health
WHO: World Health Organization