Research Priorities of the AVMA

​The mission of the AVMA includes the improvement of animal and human health. To fulfill this, the AVMA is committed to advancing the science and art of veterinary medicine, including its relationship to public health, biologic science, and agriculture.  Moving towards the future, the AVMA has identified the following research-related issues as high priority:

Clinical research for the benefit of animal health

 Translated medical discoveries improve the practice of veterinary medicine, enhance the value of veterinary care to patients and clients, and are fundamental to the continued advancement of the veterinary profession. Funding for translational research that improves animal health is extremely limited and expansion of funding sources is a major goal of the AVMA.

Infectious and zoonotic diseases of animals and humans

 It has been estimated that over 75% of pathogens in humans have their origin in animals. Emerging infectious agents must be characterized and their interactions with the host and the environment defined. The mechanisms by which these agents alter their disease-causing capacity must be determined. In addition, research is needed to better define the mechanisms by which microbes change, mutate, or adapt to host species, or become resistant to existing antibiotics. Research efforts should also be directed towards new diagnostic tests to identify infected animals, and new vaccines to protect both animals and humans against clinical disease and prevent transmission of the disease to humans. The rapid identification and eventual control of new and reemerging diseases requires surveillance and monitoring of disease patterns in people and animals. Furthermore, future research should emphasize development of new antimicrobial agents, as well as the development of alternative strategies for treating and prevention of infectious diseases.

Environmental issues relating to animal and human well-being

Veterinarians are uniquely qualified to be key players in the field of environmental quality and public health. Veterinary medicine's broad-based training programs, which include toxicology and epidemiology, prepare veterinarians to contribute significantly to a wide variety of environment-related health fields. In the area of environmental toxicology and epidemiology, veterinarians are on the forefront of environmental research, assessing the health hazards of environmental pollutants, identifying environmental carcinogens, discovering mechanisms of action of hazardous pollutants, and establishing cause and effect relationships. In the area of ecosystem health, veterinarians are engaged in interdisciplinary research on behalf of human and animal health in the natural and altered ecosystems of our cities, farms, and wild areas. This breadth of involvement enables veterinarians to be a valuable resource in control, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of environmentally associated diseases in people and animals, including those associated with contaminants.

Food security and food safety

Foods derived from animals are essential to the health and well-being of American citizens. The need for continued, and increased, health research funding for livestock, poultry, and aquaculture is critical. Control of endemic diseases and the threat of transboundary animal diseases should be a top research priority, and include many of the aforementioned strategies including the development of new diagnostic assays for earlier recognition of pathogens, as well as the development of new vaccine strategies to control the transmission of pathogens from animal to other animals and/or people.  Similarly, efficient food production, as well as the welfare of individual animals, is optimized by good animal health. Management practices to promote animal health should be investigated, with a special emphasis on the effect of nutrition on prevention of disease, correction of physiological imbalances, and efficient energy utilization. Research into other management practices, including sanitation and hygiene conditions, may lead to a reduction in exposure of humans to animal pathogens.

Enhanced animal welfare and the human-animal bond

The health and welfare of animals under human care is an important and increasing societal concern. Veterinarians play an essential role in determining standards of care and protecting the well-being of animals used as companions, for production of food and fiber, in biomedical research, for work (including security, military, and assistance animals), in exhibition and entertainment, and kept in shelters and sanctuaries.  The support of research that advances the development of objective and evidence-based criteria for the assessment of animal welfare for all species is an important objective of the AVMA. In regards to the use of animals in biomedical research, the AVMA supports the 3Rs (reduction, replacement, refinement) as proposed by Russell and Burch in 1959. Investigators should continue to strive to develop non-animal alternatives, and to improve the housing and management of animals used as research models.

Basic and translational research on human and animal disease

Veterinarians, as comparative medical scientists, are important leaders and members of interdisciplinary medical research teams using animal models to study human diseases because of their training as integrative biologists with a broad understanding of basic physiology and pathology as well as whole animal biology. The AVMA supports and encourages biomedical comparative research and applying knowledge gained from comparative biomedical research to better understand the mechanisms of disease and to enhance the development of new diagnostic tools, therapies and preventive strategies for diseases in humans and animals.

Training veterinarians for the research workforce

The recruitment of biomedical scientists continues to be one of the most challenging issues facing the research community. Recruitment and training of additional veterinary medical scientists are critical to meet present and predicted needs. By virtue of their training, veterinarians are uniquely qualified to engage in in vivo studies. By increasing funding and opportunities for training in biomedical research, the veterinary profession will be better equipped to form partnerships with other health professions to solve environmental, food safety, trade, and re-emerging/new emerging disease issues that may arise and affect our society.

 

Why is research important to animal and human health? Learn more in our Reference Guide on Biomedical Research.