Strengthening human, animal and environmental health with “One Health”

6/10/2023

Welcome to our new series of articles about the important topic of “One Health”, which is an integrated, unifying approach to balance and optimise the health of people, animals and the environment.

These articles will be written by Dr Sarah Krumrie who is a veterinarian specialising in veterinary public health and currently teaching at the University of Glasgow, UK. She is originally from Michigan in the United States, where she gained a degree in microbiology minoring in chemistry. Dr Sarah Krumrie moved to Glasgow in 2013 to attend veterinary school, then undertook a simultaneous residency and masters program in veterinary public health and infectious disease. She started teaching at the university in 2022 and enjoys helping veterinary students through their final year in school.

We met with Dr Sarah Krumrie who told us more about the purpose of “One Health” and the approach it follows.

Medilink: Over the last few years, we have been hearing more and more about the concept of “One Health”. Can you explain what it is?

Dr Sarah Krumrie: Indeed, you may have recently heard the term “One Health” and wondered what it is. Or maybe this is the first time you’re hearing the term! One Health is the concept that health and disease do not exist in isolation – that is, various organisms can affect each other in a plethora of ways. There are three sectors widely considered to be the main “players” in this concept: humans, animals, and the environment. The interaction of these sectors can both cause disease and help us target different stages in the transmission pathway to aid eradication efforts. Upwards of 60-75% of emerging diseases have an animal origin, which further underlines the involvement of other sectors alongside human health. General practitioners, veterinarians, environmental scientists, researchers, government bodies, and surveillance teams need to work together to keep potential threats under control.

Medilink: Can you give us a concrete example of the One Health approach?

Dr Sarah Krumrie: A classic example of One Health in action goes all the way back to the late 18th century with the development of a smallpox vaccine for humans from cowpox – an animal disease communicable to humans that was used to provide cross protectivity to smallpox in humans. Another great example of One Health is the effort to eradicate rabies in South Africa. Vaccination of roaming dogs has been the most effective intervention at reducing human cases of this devastatingly deadly disease.

More recently you may have heard about a woman in Australia who was found to have a live nematode (worm) in her brain. This nematode, named Ophidascaris robertsi, can be found in several snake species, but in this case was likely infecting carpet pythons indigenous to the nation. The eggs of this parasite are shed in faecal matter to be ingested by the next host, which, until now, had reportedly not included humans. The faecal-oral transmission route is common for many infectious diseases, which can be exacerbated by low infectious doses. Take Giardia duodenalis for example: a zoonotic protozoan organism carried by many mammals that can cause gastrointestinal upset in humans following the ingestion of just 10 cysts! This transmission route highlights the importance of biosecurity, the most fundamental and effective of which being thorough handwashing… remember this from the days of the COVID pandemic?

There are plenty of examples of diseases like this. They are called zoonoses, which means diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans, with ever more emerging: Ophidascaris robertsi and coronavirus are great examples. In this series we will be taking a more in-depth look at zoonotic disease and the role One Health plays in its monitoring, prevention, and control.

 

Stay tuned for our next article where we will be discussing some common zoonotic diseases such as coronavirus.

In the meantime, have a look at some One Health statements from a few worldwide organisations by clicking the links below:

 

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