Taking a One Health approach to tackling infectious diseases

03 Nov 2022
One Health showing arrows between icons for humans, animals and the planet

Today is World One Health Day, which recognises the importance of a One Health understanding of human, animal and planetary health. In this post, we look into what this means and how taking a One Health approach can benefit veterinary vaccinology.

One Health is a concept that harnesses the interdependence of human, animal and environmental health. Taking a One Health approach involves close collaboration, not only across these different sectors, but across disciplines and international borders too. This unified and integrated way of working is intended to help find sustainable solutions to pressing societal challenges such as malnutrition, food insecurity and infectious diseases.

The need for a One Health approach is intensified by the challenges facing food systems globally. Diseases and the changing climate are a particular threat to the billions of people around the world whose livelihoods rely on livestock. These complex and interacting challenges require solutions across different disciplines and sectors.

Taking a One Health approach is particularly important in tackling zoonoses – diseases that spread from animals to humans. Around 60% of existing human infectious diseases – and 75% of emerging human diseases – are of zoonotic origin. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted how damaging and challenging such infections can be.

A One Health vaccinology approach has already provided important opportunities, with vaccination of animals preventing the spread of zoonoses, such as Rift Valley fever and rabies, and food-borne pathogens, such as Salmonella, to humans. Vaccination also reduces the need for administering antibiotics, helping to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR) which affects the human and veterinary sectors.

Scientists working in human and veterinary vaccinology can also learn from each other. Recent advances have led to the development and implementation of new vaccine platform technologies. One such technology is the use of viral vectors to deliver vaccine antigens, which has long been used to vaccinate wildlife against rabies. The Covid-19 vaccine developed at the Jenner Institute in Oxford uses a chimpanzee adenovirus vector, and work in pigs was important in the development of the immunisation strategy used for this vaccine. Another technology that has gained prominence because of the Covid-19 pandemic is mRNA vaccines. There are no veterinary mRNA vaccines licensed currently, but the rapid development of Covid-19 mRNA vaccines has highlighted the huge potential of this technology for human and veterinary medicine.

As the growing global population requires food production to increase and intensify, the need for a One Health approach to disease control is growing. This unified approach will not only address the spread of zoonoses, but will also help safeguard livelihoods, improve animal welfare, protect ecosystems, and have countless other benefits to the health of animals, the public and the environment.