Today, on the 2nd annual One Health Day, it’s important for us to recognize the links between human health, animal health, and the health of the environment we share.
One Health Day is an international campaign coordinated by the One Health Commission and others, with the goal of bringing attention to the One Health concept. The One Health Commission is a globally focused organization dedicated to promoting improved health of people, animals, plants and the environment.
Advances in biotechnology have already made strides in addressing One Health issues, with the potential to continue that.
As the World Health Organization notes, a One Health approach is particularly relevant to the control of zoonotic diseases, food safety, and combating antibiotic resistance.
Why do we need a One Health approach?
Many of the same microbes infect animals and humans, as they share the eco-systems they live in. Efforts by just one sector cannot prevent or eliminate the problem. For instance, rabies in humans is effectively prevented only by targeting the animal source of the virus (for example, by vaccinating dogs).
Information on influenza viruses circulating in animals is crucial to the selection of viruses for human vaccines for potential influenza pandemics. Drug-resistant microbes can be transmitted between animals and humans through direct contact between animals and humans or through contaminated food, so to effectively contain it, a well-coordinated approach in humans and in animals is required.
As they note, for the One Health approach to work, professionals across public health, animal health, plant health and environmental sectors should join together to support One Health initiatives.
Biotechnology companies have led the way on a number of these issues. Six out of every ten infectious diseases in people are spread from animals. Companies like Oxitec are coming up with solutions; Oxitec, a subsidiary of Intrexon, has developed genetically modified mosquitos with a self-limiting gene that ensures their offspring can’t survive – providing a way to decrease populations of mosquitos that carry diseases like Zika and dengue fever.
There is also tremendous potential for genetically engineered livestock to help combat human disease.
Using some of the most advanced genetic science in the world, SAB Biotherapeutics has developed the first large animal platform to create human, polyclonal antibodies, also called immunoglobulins, without using human donors. SAB’s natural platform can produce antibodies targeting cancer, autoimmune disorders, inflammation, and infectious diseases.
Other developments include genetically modifying livestock for disease resistance, which improves animal health and welfare, reduces antibiotic use in livestock and helps preserve antibiotics’ effectiveness in humans.
Together, we can fight disease and protect animals, people and the environment with a One Health approach. For more information on One Health Day, visit the One Health Commission website!