Antimicrobial resistance, avian influenza, and climate change are among the topics that illustrate interconnections among human, animal, and environmental health.
These topics and other interdisciplinary health matters were the subject of many sessions during the sixth International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases, March 16-19 in Atlanta. The one-health concept was a theme throughout ICEID 2008.
Dr. Roger K. Mahr, advocate of the one-health concept and AVMA immediate past president, described the philosophy of "One World, One Health, One Medicine" at a session early in the meeting. Thomas P. Monath, MD, a member of the AVMA One Health Initiative Task Force, spoke on behalf of the American Medical Association."
The one-health focus was shown by the focus of the talks and posters, the integration of the sessions themselves," said Dr. Carina G. Blackmore, Florida state public health veterinarian and another member of the one-health task force who attended ICEID 2008.
Dr. Blackmore said some of the discussion concerned antimicrobial resistance in human and animal pathogens. Antimicrobial-resistance plasmids also are present in microbial flora in the environment, she said.
Dr. Christine Hoang, an assistant director in the AVMA Scientific Activities Division who attended the meeting's sessions on zoonoses, said further discussion concerned transmission of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus among species—including humans, companion animals, and production animals. Speakers talked about MRSA in pets and a different strain of MRSA that scientists identified recently in swine in the Netherlands and Canada.
Dr. Albert Osterhaus, a virologist at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, spoke about relationships between human and animal viral pathogens. Various viruses in animals offer opportunities for emergence of new zoonoses, he said. Such diseases affect public health, animal health, food supply, economics, and biodiversity. Dr. Osterhaus emphasized the need for interdisciplinary collaboration to understand zoonoses.
A number of sessions during ICEID 2008 tackled the subject of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza, Dr. Hoang said.
Nancy Cox, PhD, director of the Influenza Division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said a human pandemic arising from H5N1 avian influenza may be unpredictable and unpreventable. Rapid detection and response efforts will be key if or when the virus mutates to transmit easily among humans.
Dr. Les Sims of Asia Pacific Veterinary Information Services in Australia said eradication of H5N1 avian influenza won't occur in the foreseeable future. The medium-term strategy of vaccination comes with challenges such as finding funding, measuring efficacy, and monitoring antigenic variation.
One of the meeting's messages, Dr. Blackmore said, was the need for ecologic research to understand the impact of environmental health on animal and human health. Plants take up human pathogens into their tissues, for example, and wild birds spread avian influenza.
Howard Frumkin, MD, director of the CDC National Center for Environmental Health, spoke about the impact of climate change on public health. Areas of potential concern include food security, water supplies, air pollution, and vectorborne disease.
Summarizing ICEID 2008, Dr. Hoang said, "The one-health concept continued to be a focus at most, if not all, of the lectures I attended. The level of understanding of its necessity is growing, and the concept really seems to be catching on."