Wednesday, January 26

Preventing future pandemics begins with recognizing the links between human and animal health.


The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that zoonotic diseases – infections that are transmitted from animals to humans – can pose enormous threats to global health. More than 70% of emerging and re-emerging pathogens come from animals. That likely includes the SARS CoV-2 virus, which scientists many believe it originated in bats.

There are still questions about where specifically the SARS-CoV-2 virus emerged. But experts around the world agree that communities can take steps to reduce the risk of future spills. One key is for veterinarians, doctors, and scientists to work together, recognizing how closely related human health is to that of animals and the habitats we share, an approach known as A health.

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To prevent new pandemics, scientists must identify specific locations where viruses are most likely to pass from animals to humans. In turn, this requires understanding how human behaviors, from deforestation to burning fossil fuels, conflict and cultural activities, contribute to risks of spillover.

We focus on One Health global research and education and epidemiology of infectious diseasesand we are part of a scientific working group convened by the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Institute for Global Health to evaluate current knowledge on how to prevent contagion effects. the working group report noted that a recent analysis The costs of addressing the spill at high-risk interfaces through One Health and forest conservation approaches are estimated to be $ 22 billion to $ 31 billion per year. These costs are dwarfed by the global estimate GDP loss of nearly $ 4 trillion in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In our view, a coordinated investment based on a One Health approach is needed to initiate and sustain global prevention strategies and avoid the devastating costs of responding to a pandemic.

Infographic naming specialties contributing to One Health.
One Health is a strategy that seeks to build bridges that connect physicians, veterinarians, environmental scientists, public health professionals, and other specialists to protect the health of all species.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Recognizing risk areas

Identifying high-risk areas for zoonotic contagion is challenging. People and wildlife move around a lot and exposure may not immediately lead to infection or produce symptoms that clearly reflect exposure to pathogens.

But researchers can make predictions by combining data on human and livestock density with data on environmental conditions, such as deforestation and changes in land use, that can allow pathogens to spread from wildlife to humans. For example, there are areas in China, Indonesia, India, and Bangladesh where development has fragmented forests and expanded animal husbandry and human communities close to natural habitats. horseshoe bats. This group of bats, which includes more than 100 species, has been implicated as a reservoir for many coronaviruses.

It is not uncommon for bat-borne diseases to be transmitted to humans. Sometimes it happens directly: for example, bats in Bangladesh have repeatedly transmitted Get rid of the virus to humans. Or the pathogen can move indirectly through intermediate hosts. For example, in 1994, bats in Australia infected horses with the Hendra virus, a respiratory disease that then passed to humans.

In Brazil, yellow fever is endemic in rainforests and is transmitted mainly among monkeys through mosquitoes. People in the country contract it occasionally from mosquito bites, and deforestation and land conversion for agriculture increase the risk of further contagion effects. There is growing concern that the disease may spread to large Brazilian cities, where Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are widespread and could broadcast it on a large scale.

There are also specific human behaviors that can further increase the risk of spills. They include work that puts humans in direct contact with or near animals, such as harvesting bat guano (manure) as fertilizer, and buying and selling of wild animals or parts of animals.

Tropical deforestation, wildlife trade, and cattle ranching near forest edges are believed to be the main drivers of the spread of zoonotic diseases.

Daily routines related to food storage and bushmeat consumption can also create risks. For example, Ebola virus outbreaks in Nigeria have been associated with killing and eating bushmeat.

People in areas with high risk of flooding do not need to stop living their lives. But they must recognize that some actions are riskier than others and take appropriate safety precautions, such as wearing protective gear and ensuring that bushmeat is handled and cooked properly.

The importance of teamwork

In our view, it is essential that researchers and governments understand and embrace the core concept that the health of animals, people and the environment are closely related, and factors that affect one can affect all. Ideally, problem-solving teams dealing with prevention are formed from the community and district levels down through the ranks of the health, animal and environment ministries.

Members of local communities are more likely to know where people are most at risk of coming into contact with animals that can transmit infectious diseases. By listening to them, veterinary and medical health professionals, as well as foresters and land managers, can develop strategies that are more likely to decrease the risk of overflow.

Technician in protective suit takes a blood sample from a camel.
Camels infected with the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) can transmit the virus to humans through direct or indirect contact. Since 2012, MERS has killed more than 800 people in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. Testing is an important tool for detecting infected animals. Image: Awadh Mohammed Ba Saleh, CDC Global / Flickr, CC BY

Organizations like United States Agency for International Development, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, national governments and civil society groups are investing in One Health platforms in selected countries in Africa and Asia. These networks are usually anchored in government ministries. They may also include nongovernmental organizations and civil society groups committed to advancing health and wellness through the One Health framework.

For example, many countries have separate databases to track infectious disease outbreaks in humans and animals. Connecting these systems across government ministries and agencies can improve information sharing between them and lead to a better understanding of flood risks.

We believe that preparing for the next pandemic should include preventing it at its source. Our best chance for success is to coordinate research and design of overflow interventions, recognizing that the health of humans, animals, and nature are connected.The conversation

Deborah Kochevar, Professor of Comparative Pathobiology and Dean Emeritus, Cummings College of Veterinary Medicine; Lead Member, The Fletcher School, Tufts university and William Werneck, Professor of Epidemiology, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the Original article.


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