November 3rd is International One Health Day. One Health is the idea that the health of people, animals, plants and the environment are interlinked, and that health will be optimised by different disciplines (such as medicine, veterinary science, social science, economics, environmental science) working together rather than independently. It goes to the heart of multidisciplinarity in science, with large gains to be made by bringing together experts who may approach the similar problems with different skill sets and approaches.
There are innumerable examples of advances in human medicine that have led to improvements in animal health – as just one example, some of the biggest equipment in the University of Liverpool’s animal clinics (such as MRI scanners) come from human hospitals. But there are also many examples of veterinary medicine leading to improvements in human health or medicine. In the UK, we are now safe to eat raw or undercooked eggs owing to a major programme to eliminate salmonellosis from the layer industry. The incidence of human rabies in much of East Africa has declined, owing to vaccination not of people, but of dogs. My favourite example relates to transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. In the early 1960s members of the Foré tribe in Papua New Guinea were dying from a novel disease called Kuru (related to variant CJD). An American medic attempted transmission experiments with chimps that were not successful, leading to the conclusion that the disease was of genetic origin. The medic spoke on this in the UK and, in the audience, was a veterinarian. The vet recognised that the characteristics of Kuru seemed identical to that of a sheep disease called scrapie, which had been shown to be transmissible. He alerted the medic, who repeated the experiments, this time successfully, and went on to get the Nobel Prize for Physiology (the medic, not the vet, of course).
Find out more about International One Health Day here: https://www.onehealthcommission.org/en/eventscalendar/one_health_day/
The University of Liverpool is a big player in the area of One Health. We have had a string of large projects in the area of zoonotic diseases and food systems which contribute significantly to non-communicable diseases. Most recently, we have been given a large RCUK-funded Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Growing Research Capability (GROW) award called One Health Regional Network for the Horn of Africa (HORN), which aims to strengthen institutions and train researchers and support staff in areas relevant to One Health in 4 countries of the Horn of Africa: Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. It is early days, but you can follow progress here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1473530819359799/
Follow us on Twitter: @OneHealthHORN to get our One Health Day updates at the top of every hour today.
Our website, www.onehealthHORN.net (coming soon!)