Covid-19 from a “One Health” perspective

Presentazione standard1

One Health” is an approach that recognizes that human health is closely related to animal health and environmental health. In a broad sense, the integrated health results from the interaction between humans, animals, and the environment. This initiative is of great importance in the context of infectious disease ecology, where both animals and the environment have significant relationships and relevance for the occurrence of emerging diseases.

In the last twenty years, several viral epidemics such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) in 2002 to 2003, and H1N1 influenza in 2009, have been recorded. Most recently, the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. In a timeline that reaches the present day, an epidemic of cases with unexplained low respiratory infections detected in Wuhan, the largest metropolitan area in China’s Hubei province, was first reported to the WHO Country Office in China, on December 31, 2019. Contrary to SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, human infections due to SARS-CoV-2 have been reported to a quite large extent outside the epicentre of the infection. The numbers of infections due to SARS-CoV-2 continued to grow since its emergence till January 31, and as of 17 May 2020, more than 4.71 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported in more than 188 countries and territories, resulting in more than 315,000 deaths. More than 1.73 million people have recovered from the virus. According to the first genetic analyses of SARS-CoV2, the virus originating in a bat required an intermediate host to acquire, through recombination and mutation, the capacity to infect humans. Among the possibilities identified in the search for the intermediate host: the pangolin, a heavily poached endangered species. This type of virus transmission is possible, but rare. However, in recent years, interactions between areas occupied by humans and natural areas have accelerated. The destruction and fragmentation of the habitats of certain species, their farming, and their illegal trafficking all increase health risks. In addition to the anthropization of areas (urbanization, transport, mining, etc.), the industrialization of agriculture, food production and livestock farming – with, in particular, the intensive use of antibiotics creating resistance in bacteria –, is also implicated in the multiplication of infectious diseases incidents and the creation of conditions conducive to their globalization.

To manage the ongoing crisis and to better anticipate the next one, it is needed to strengthen the foundations of an ecology of health, focusing on the interdependencies between the functioning of ecosystems, sociocultural practices and the health of human, animal and plant populations taken together. COVID-19 is a recent example of the complex threats of emerging infectious diseases. Emerging infections in humans and animals, along with other threats such as antimicrobial resistance, are difficult challenges to humanity, to a large extent driven by increasing food production and other issues related to a growing and more resource-demanding population. The interdisciplinary “One Health “approach represents an attempt to deal with such complex problems engaging professionals from many disciplines such as human, veterinary, and environmental health, as well as social sciences. The “One Health” approach recognizes the interrelationship between animals, humans and the environment and encourages collaborative efforts to improve the health of people and animals, including pets, livestock, and wildlife. “One Health” measures can work to identify sources of emerging pathogens and ways to reduce the threat of outbreaks. The implementation and development of One Health collaborations on a global scale are critical to reduce the threats of emerging viruses. Regarding SARS-CoV-2 in particular, there are several aspects that needs a “One Health” approach in order to understand the outbreak, and to mitigate further outbreaks of a similar virus.

These measures will be helpful in limiting another crisis that we are facing: the antimicrobial resistance.