Expert Panel Calls for Closer Collaboration Between Human, Animal Health

THE NETHERLANDS - 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, reports Zoetis.
calendar icon 17 March 2015
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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 One Health to prevent and treat chronic diseases that are common to animals and people.

This call to action came at a satellite symposium held 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 into family life, and live in closer contact with their human masters. People and animals are more closely linked than ever before. Therefore, zoonotic diseases, those transmitted between animals and humans, represent a very real concern, and not only in the developing world1.

Animal-transmitted infectious diseases will continue to be a major health challenge in the future. More than 60 per cent of all infectious diseases that plague mankind are of wild animal origin and 75 per cent of emerging human diseases are zoonotic1,3.

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 examples1. 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 umbrella of One Health to protect both human and animal health, as well as to ensure the supply of safe and affordable food1.

Anton Pijpers, professor of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Utrecht, said: “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.”

Alejandro Bernal, Executive Vice President and Area President, Europe, Africa and Middle East at Zoetis and Chairman of IFAH-Europe, the organisation 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 Europe, 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) said: "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 commercialise their inventions earlier in the veterinary market.”

Ms Haven called out 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 has an economic impact.

As Professor 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 species9.

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 pre-clinical 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 are due to take place on 17 March 2015 and will focus on ways to improve collaboration at both the human and animal health levels.

For more information about the 3rd International One Health conference, visit

For details of references mentioned above, click here.

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