At least 60% of infectious human diseases are of animal origin. An animal origin is shared by many pandemics, such as COVID-19, the Zika and Ebola viruses, avian flu and AIDS. The number of major epidemics worldwide has increased over the past century as the world's population has grown, transport has intensified, the environment has been degraded and cities have expanded. Human activity therefore plays a major role in the spread of infectious diseases: for example, deforestation has brought wildlife and livestock into closer contact, making it easier for new diseases to jump from animals to humans. The Nipah virus in South-east Asia is a typical example: this measles-like virus was transmitted from fruit bats to pigs, which then passed it on to humans.
These flying mammals had found refuge in pig farms after colossal fires destroyed the Malaysian rainforest. The Nipah virus has a mortality rate of nearly 40% in humans. Fortunately, the outbreak was contained through the slaughter of a million pigs. Another example is the decline of vultures in India, which has had a major impact on the spread of human rabies. In addition, climate change allows disease-carrying animals such as mosquitoes, biting midges or ticks to adapt to new geographical areas, which increases the spread of pathogens.
Encouraging a global vision
This context led to development of the One Health concept. It calls for due consideration to be given to all the factors involved in the emergence of diseases. The challenge is to encourage effective collaboration between research organisations working in the areas of human health, veterinary health and the environment. The concept is promoted by international institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). A tripartite agreement was signed between these three organisations in 2010 with a view to working together on this theme.
The One Health concept at ANSES
With its cross-cutting approach to safeguarding the health of humans, animals and plants, ANSES's work is fundamentally in line with the One Health concept. This is illustrated in particular by the Agency's participation in two collaborative projects on this theme. The first, the One Health major area of interest (DIM) project, funded by the Ile-de-France region from 2017 to 2021, brings together numerous animal and human health research teams in the region.
The Agency is also coordinating the One Health European Joint Programme (EJP) (2018-2023), which brings together 39 partners from 19 European countries. It is aiming to acquire new knowledge in the areas of foodborne zoonoses, antimicrobial resistance and emerging infectious risks. ANSES is coordinating this project while working closely with the Belgian partner Sciensano on coordination of the programme’s scientific activities. The ANSES laboratories' research teams are participating in 17 of the 23 research projects selected within the framework of the EJP's two calls for projects.
Examples of themes
Many of the Agency's research and expert appraisal topics fall under the One Health theme, with some being particularly representative:
- vector-borne diseases, including those transmitted by ticks, Culicoides (biting midges) and mosquitoes.
- the spread of insect vectors of plant diseases due to climate change.
- environmental factors posing a risk to bee health.
- the study of zoonoses, which are diseases transmitted from animals to humans: swine and avian influenzas, brucellosis, tuberculosis, coronavirus...
- parasites such as toxoplasmosis or trichinellosis, transmitted through the consumption of undercooked meat.
- antimicrobial resistance, which affects both farm animals and humans and can be extended to resistance to other anti-infectives.
- the impact of climate change on health, especially that of workers.