New One Health program ‘including livestock’ could help protect the world from pandemic disease

A new One Health handbook offers governments around the world 18 practical ways to improve livestock systems in developing countries, which will unlock benefits for global health and development.

A “livestock-inclusive” One Health program focusing on seven key areas in the Global South would help protect the entire world against pandemic diseases, according to the brief from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

About three-quarters of emerging infectious diseases in humans originate in wild and domestic animals, and before the Covid-19 pandemic, animal-borne diseases almost exclusively affected people in low-income countries. Only 13 of the 200 known zoonotic diseases cause 2.2 million deaths per year, mostly in developing countries.

ILRI scientists highlighted how investments in healthier and more sustainable livestock systems in developing countries would benefit all three interconnected One Health domains: animal, human and environment, and reduce the risk of spread of diseases.

Recommendations include increasing the availability and use of livestock vaccines to reduce the threat of interspecies disease outbreaks, raising public awareness of the precautions needed to limit the spread of disease, and improving standards hygiene and food safety in informal markets.

It is impossible to overstate the importance and ubiquity of livestock in African, Asian and Latin American countries. Everything from food and nutrition to gender equality, livelihoods and trade depends on farmed animals. »

Jimmy Smith, Managing Director of ILRI

“Healthy livestock means healthy people and environments, which not only enables low-income countries to sustainably develop their economies, but also improves global health security, minimizing the risk of epidemics spreading around the world. entire.”

The brief, which comes ahead of the upcoming meeting to discuss an “international pandemic prevention treaty”, also highlights the importance of improving the early detection of emerging zoonotic infections in animals both to protect the livelihoods of poorest and to prevent pandemics in humans. One such disease is the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), a virus transmitted by camels, which is becoming increasingly popular in countries like Kenya for its climate resilience.

ILRI scientists and partners have begun to strengthen MERS surveillance in camels both to better understand camel diseases and to anticipate potential outbreaks in humans, which could develop into another pandemic.

“As the World Health Organization moves towards a new pandemic preparedness treaty, it is critical that governments seize the opportunity to invest in livestock systems to improve public health,” Hung said. Nguyen-Viet, co-head of the animal and human health program at ILRI.

“Tackling zoonotic diseases at source would dramatically reduce human illness and death while saving billions of dollars in future epidemic or pandemic control.”

In addition to preventing pandemics, livestock-based One Health approaches can also contribute to healthier ecosystems, especially when applied to mixed crop-livestock systems. In such systems, crop residues provide animal feed while the animals provide organic fertilizer to maintain soil health, as well as traction and income that can in turn be reinvested in crop production.

Similarly, healthier livestock systems also increase the resilience of communities and economies, leaving rural populations less vulnerable to hunger, malnutrition and ill health. Some 70% of the 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty in the world depend on livestock for their livelihood. Improving productivity through smarter feeding, farmer education and range management can allow livestock keepers to get more from their animals, resulting in higher incomes, more nutritious diets and better health prospects.

“As we have seen with the Covid-19 pandemic, vulnerabilities and health threats in one part of the world can quickly spread and affect the entire global population,” added Dr Smith.

“The prevalence of livestock in developing countries makes it a unique vehicle for improving the lives of the most vulnerable and, in doing so, protecting health worldwide.”


International Livestock Research Institute

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