Confronting the risks associated with animal diseases at the intersection of veterinary and public health.
One Health is a worldwide movement that promotes collaborative efforts between different health-related professionals and paraprofessionals. It expands interdisciplinary collaborations and communications among physicians, osteopaths, veterinarians, dentists, nurses, biomedical researchers, public health practitioners and other scientific health- and environmentally-related disciplines. The One Health movement has been defined as “the collaborative effort of multiple disciplines — working locally, nationally and globally — to attain optimal health for people, animals and our environment.” During the last century human and animal diseases have been largely treated as separate entities; however, the One Health concept provides a pathway to showcase how human, environmental and animal health are interrelated.
The Institute champions the cause of One Health by focusing its research at the intersection of animal and human health, and has done so since DHS established the Institute in 2004. Much of IIAD’s work deals with diseases that are both zoonotic and high consequence – two concepts often overlap in the One Health arena. IIAD is actively engaged in partnerships with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture One Health Office on projects spanning the human health/animal health interface.
Zoonotic diseases are caused by pathogens that are transmissible between humans and animals – at least 60 percent of all pathogens that affect humans are zoonotic. High-consequence diseases pose significant threats to public health, animal health, the agricultural economy and the national food supply. A list of high-consequence zoonotic diseases would include several that frequently make world headlines – avian influenza, Rift Valley fever (RVF), brucellosis and anthrax. By focusing on these diseases, almost every IIAD project launched and product developed supports the One Health concept.
One of these projects involves collaborating with the CDC to develop an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) diagnostic test for the RVF virus for use at National Animal Health Laboratory Network laboratories. This test will distinguish infected from vaccinated animals (DIVA) using a blocking ELISA based on synthetic peptides and mammalian cell expressed non-structural proteins. In addition, this diagnostic tool is designed as a companion assay to the CDC RVF vaccine candidate that is currently in development and has demonstrated DIVA potential. Partnering with CDC on this project allows IIAD to leverage previous vaccine development work and bridge the animal/human health research gap to generate a novel DIVA ELISA for livestock. In addition, CDC has an extensive collection of livestock field samples from African countries that have experienced recent RVF outbreaks or where the disease is endemic, providing a significant first step in assay validation. Developing the test will be a significant step toward protecting both animal and human health from Rift Valley fever – a zoonotic disease that is transmitted primarily by mosquitoes and is particularly devastating to both humans and livestock in Sub-Saharan Africa. While the test in development is for livestock samples, improved detection of disease in animals will have a direct impact on human health and disease transmission.
The Institute is also spreading the One Health concept to the next generation of veterinary assistants and paraprofessionals through promoting the Veterinary Science Certificate Program (VSCP) to high schools and 4-H clubs across the nation. The Institute launched a training program in 2010 with a textbook and a teacher key that emphasize veterinary practice, public health, laboratory work and regulatory issues. IIAD has since expanded the program with a textbook about One Health science and technology, plus an online program that includes teacher resources, self-study materials and an accreditation program.
The current model consists of 150 lessons for the veterinary science curriculum along with 500 hours of apprenticeship time. In addition, program lessons focus on agricultural, emerging and/or zoonotic diseases. The program’s intent is to increase the number of students entering agricultural and biosecurity disciplines. The program model is divided into three tracks: a clinical career track, a laboratory science and technology track, and a One Health science and technology track.
Diffusion of VSCP occurred through a four-tiered process consisting of awareness, evaluation, adoption, and implementation through state department of education personnel and state 4-H Extension personnel. The response from teachers and students has been positive and promising. For fiscal year 2014, the program enrolled 21,582 students: 16,168 in high school programs, 522 in homeschool programs, 1,280 in online self-study programs, 446 in community college programs and 3,538 in 4-H clubs.
Though still in the early stages of marketing the textbooks and online programs, the center has already seen partial adoption by state departments of education or agriculture, school districts, and 4-H programs in 33 states.