One Health

January 22, 2018

A Look At One Health

By Michael D. Shaw

Let’s start off with a definition of “One Health.” According to the CDC:

“The One Health concept recognizes that the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment. CDC uses a One Health approach by working with physicians, veterinarians, ecologists, and many others to monitor and control public health threats and to learn about how diseases spread among people, animals, and the environment.”

“One Health is defined as a collaborative, multisectoral, and trans-disciplinary approach—working at the local, regional, national, and global levels—with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes recognizing the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment.”

The CDC offers a pretty straightforward example of how human, animal, and environmental health are linked…

1.      Cows graze next to a lettuce field. Cows can carry E. coli but still look healthy.

2.     E. coli from cow manure in the nearby farm can contaminate the lettuce field.

3.     People eat contaminated lettuce and can become infected with E. coli. Serious illness or sometimes death can result.

Veterinary medicine rightly identifies itself as the only profession that routinely operates at the interface of people, animals, and the environment. As such, veterinarians and the American Veterinary Medical Association have long been involved with One Health, and among other things have established the One Health Initiative Task Force.

The Task Force’s 2008 report (linked above) offers some compelling reasons in favor of the One Health approach…

** While the demand for animal-based protein is expected to increase by 50% by 2020, animal populations are under heightened pressure to survive, and further loss of biodiversity is highly probable.

** Of the 1,461 diseases now recognized in humans, approximately 60% are due to multi-host pathogens characterized by their movement across species lines. And, over the last three decades, approximately 75% of new emerging human infectious diseases have been zoonotic (a disease that can be transmitted from animals to people).

CDC cites four common zoonotic diseases:

More than that, animals suffer from many of the same chronic diseases as humans, including arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and obesity. Incidence of these conditions is often more common in domesticated animals. Feline diabetes is on the rise, with owners learning how to give their pets insulin injections.

On the non-domestic side, bottlenose dolphins seem to be able to control their level of insulin resistance, to optimize their blood glucose level. Understanding this might have some applicability to our own alarming epidemic of diabetes.

One more chronic condition we share with domestic animals is canine kidney disease. Many cases can be traced to periodontal disease, promoted—according to several experts—by kibble and starch-based diets. The bacteria involved can invade multiple organs, causing irreversible damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys. Sadly, there is a direct analogy to humans.

I recently spoke with Albert Di Rienzo, CEO & Chief Science Officer at One Health Group—scientists and technologists focused on delivering breakthrough health diagnostics, therapeutics, monitoring, and advanced analytics. All of its activities are inspired by a keen awareness of the strong comparative medicine between animals and humans.

Di Rienzo is especially proud of the company’s expertise in Ultra-Wideband radar—a form of non-ionizing energy similar in concept to ultrasound, but utilizing electromagnetic, rather than sonic energy. As the energy enters the body, small amounts of the incident energy are reflected back, which is then processed with special algorithms to extract information on the type, location, size, and relative movement, function, and properties of the illuminated tissues, organs, and structures.

As he puts it:

“An exciting capability of this technology is the ability to monitor vital signs, and the function of various organs, without the need for skin contact. This capability provides major opportunities for strong and valuable differentiation across many health monitoring applications—all the while analyzing the data for new findings across One Health.”