One Health: man and animal on the same road to good health

Humans and animals are united in the same battle against an increase in infectious agents and a growing risk of pandemics. INRA’s research into animal health often extends to the realm of human health, and is in line with the “One Health” initiative, as defined in 2008.

One health. © INRA, Véronique Gavala
By Pascale Mollier, translated by Inge Laino
Updated on 04/15/2016
Published on 01/24/2016

One Health: an international programme

One Health is an international programme created by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), bringing together the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OiE), Unicef, and the World Bank. Its reference framework, created in 2008, aims to “promote responsibility- sharing and concerted global action in order to manage health risks at the intersection of animals, man and ecosystems”. The need for such a global approach emerged in 2004 after the onset of several epidemics involving both man and animals: Ebola, SARS, and especially bird flu in 2003. Close to 60% of infectious human diseases are thought to be of animal origin.

INRA committed to taking up the fight

France joined this ambitious programme in 2011 with a multipronged research approach.

The most exciting developments are happening in research into the crossing of species barriers by prions (infectious agents at the root of mad cow disease and scrapie).

Others results have already been obtained, for example on viral bronchiolitis and West Nile Virus. The latter, which causes encephalitis in man and horses, is a good example of the One Health dynamic. In this case, an INRA team produced a recombinant fish virus (by inserting a gene into the virus’ genome), to create a vaccine for mammals. The novelty lies in the fact that the fish virus cannot reproduce in temperatures greater than 20°C, which is ideal for warm-blooded animals!

Another example is INRA’s research on avermectins, a type of anti-parasitic drug. Thanks to it, scientists have a better understanding of the drug’s mechanisms of action, and are opening doors to developing treatment for use in humans. The Institute’s work here has been awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize for Medicine. Read the report.