The “One Health” concept, a multidisciplinary scientific approach to better prevent pandemics

“One health”: under this abstruse name hides a concept better known by its Anglo-Saxon terminology, “One Health”. He is interested in the close links between human health, wildlife health, and ecosystem health. Its main reason: to protect us from zoonoses, those infectious diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans, or vice versa.. And thus protect ourselves from the risk of a pandemic.

Veterinarians, ecologists and ethologists, virologists, bacteriologists, infectologists, epidemiologists and doctors… are invited to collaborate to trace the twists and turns that viruses, bacteria and other pathogens take, in nature or on farms, before infecting our species . Detect the spread of these infectious germs in their animal reservoirs. Identify its possible passage to our species. Determine human risk behaviors. Finally, identify the best weapons to deploy, in the field, to counter these microbial offensives. The approach varies little, but must be renewed in each ecosystem.

Ultimately, it is about watching to anticipate. And, in case of high circulation of a pathogen in an animal population, “Intervene before it is transmitted to humans and then spreads, where appropriate, through person-to-person contamination”, emphasizes Sylvain Baize, from the Institut Pasteur-CIRI. However, the concept hides a part of ambivalence: by striving to prevent a risk, don’t researchers risk, on the contrary, in certain cases, favoring it?

The threat of “Disease X”

The main challenge is to protect yourself from a sneaky threat: “disease X”. Clearly a hypothetical illness due to an unknown virus (or bacteria), likely to cause a serious pandemic. In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) added this “disease X” to the list of pathologies that could endanger humanity. Disturbing prophecy: two years later, the Covid-19 knocked on the doors of the entire world. Ironically, this pandemic is a perfect model of “disease X”. “Covid-19 is most likely a zoonosis due to the introduction of a coronavirus from an animal reservoir,” the French scientific council recalled in its February 8 opinion, dedicated to the “One Health” concept.

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers Origin of Covid-19: the problematic role of an American NGO and a British zoologist

Since this health crisis, the concept has seduced the political sphere. Wielded like a spell, the formula is supposed to green certain programs. However, for more than twenty years, far from the political-media hype, researchers have continued their hunt for microbes in nature’s great bestiary. So many stones in the construction of the dam that they strive to erect against a new pandemic wave. In 2015, the magazine a health it was even created by the Elsevier publishing house.

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