If one over-arching theme came out of this conference, it was the concept noted in the title: “one medicine, one health.” In one of the early lectures, a speaker polled the audience to find out how many attending were veterinarians, and how many worked in human health. The room was divided pretty evenly, which attests to the importance of animals in the emergence of new diseases in humans. Regular readers, of course, will know that these diseases that cross species boundaries–zoonoses–make a large proportion of the emerging diseases we see (~75% by several estimates). Early Monday morning, Dr. Thomas Monath spoke about the intersection of human and animal health–the “one medicine, one health” concept that
Monath asserted that what we need is more simultaneous study of zoonoses in both humans and the animals they may have either originated from, or spread to. A hundred or so years ago, this view was much more common, with the boundaries between human and animal medicine blurred. However, so much specialization has occurred throughout the past century that even practitioners of each discipline (human versus animal medicine) don’t necessarily have all the expertise even to treat everything in their own chosen species, much less pay attention to others. Monath (and many others) have argued for more integration between those in the animal and human health worlds. One needn’t not know everything, but should strive to be aware of what’s happening in species other than those in one’s particular area of study.
To promote this, both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) have endorsed the “One health” resolution, pledging support and assistance to battle emerging diseases at the interface of their professions.
What do they hope to gain from this resolution?
-A broader scope of both human and veterinary medical education
-Integration of veterinary medicine and human health campaigns
-Increased knowledge of infectious and chronic disease in all species, and
This type of collaborative research that crosses boundaries has already been demonstrated to work, and not only for infectious disease:
For example, medical, veterinary and wildlife disease experts coordinated operations during the West Nile virus outbreak; Ebola outbreaks in animals typically preface human outbreaks; sick cats were a warning about high mercury content in fish; and lead poisoning in dogs alerted doctors to dangers in lead paint to children.
As one who works primarily in human health, but from the aspect of investigating our animal friends as well as Homo sapiens, I’m in staunch agreement.
Next up, how Google fits into emerging infectious diseases…