“One health”, a key objective of the COVID-19 summit

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines “One Health” as an approach “which recognizes that the health of people is closely related to the health of animals and our common environment.”

It’s a perfectly suited approach to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, the most serious public health crisis in recent history, Cornell researchers said at the university’s COVID-19 summit, an event virtual from November 4 to 5.

“People have known for thousands of years that the health of humans depends on the health of the environment,” said Alex Travis, professor of reproductive biology at the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and director of the Cornell University Masters. of Public Health. Program.

Travis spoke at the “One Health Perspectives” panel discussion on the second day of the summit, which brought together SARS-CoV-2 researchers from Cornell campuses in Ithaca and New York, including Weill Cornell Medicine and Cornell Tech. The event was designed to share research and promote collaborations between colleges, campuses and disciplines to advance research on COVID-19.

The event began with the opening remarks by event co-organizer Paula Cohen, Associate Vice-President for Life Sciences; Dr Augustine MK Choi, Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine and Dean of Medical Affairs; and Provost Michael Kotlikoff.

The summit was divided into seven sessions:

  • Clinical science and epidemiology;
  • Molecular virology and host biology;
  • Vaccines, antivirals and other therapeutic products;
  • The Materials / Biology / Virology Interface;
  • One health outlook;
  • Social sciences and modeling; and
  • Variations in response to SARS-CoV-2 and interactions between diseases.

In the One Health Perspectives session, Gary Whittaker, professor of virology at CVM and coronavirus expert, traced the lineages of previous coronavirus outbreaks – most notably SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS – and the transfer of COVID-19 from bats to humans. He noted that while coronaviruses infect a range of species, bats act as a reservoir for many of them.

Whittaker noted that humans have since infected cats with SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and that research on cats may provide insight into the behavior of the virus in humans.

The lab of Diego Diel, associate professor of population medicine and diagnostic sciences at CVM, studied tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo infected with SARS-CoV-2 from humans. He is currently studying animal species susceptible to the virus, given the potential role animals play in the epidemiology of the virus, he said.

According to Michael Stanhope, professor of population medicine and diagnostic sciences at the CVM, the fallout from the animal coronavirus “has caused three major epidemics in the past two decades, and … it’s going to happen again.” At the same time, he said, animal reservoirs of COVID-19 in the United States are poorly understood; he has a multidisciplinary grant proposal under review at the National Institutes of Health to better understand the dynamics of coronavirus infections between species.

“Our goal is to identify the [COVID] risk potential of wildlife in the northeast and putative high-risk species of the world in general, ”said Stanhope, who hopes to predict the sources of transfer between species in order to respond to, control or prevent any future outbreaks. .

Kathryn Fiorella, assistant professor of population medicine and diagnostic sciences at CVM, said that while the fallout from wildlife disease on humans worries scientists, “less attention has been paid … to how whose human health then spills over into the environment, “setting in moving feedback cycles that exacerbate negative consequences for human and environmental health.

A case study in a Kenyan fishing community found that when fishermen were sick they were more likely to engage in illegal and destructive fishing practices than when they were healthy, she said. During the COVID-19 pandemic, research from Fiorella has shown that home-keeping measures have resulted in less fishing, fewer trips to fish markets, and a greater reliance on dried fish which can be stored and less desirable species, creating potential food safety concerns. Therefore, she said, governments and institutions should create structures that enhance access to various resources.

Krysten Schuler, assistant research professor in population medicine and diagnostic sciences at CVM, discussed human-animal interactions and associated risks.

“It’s safe to say humans have become the reservoir and have spread the virus around the world,” she said. “Wildlife is often portrayed as the bad guy in these scenarios when we talk about where the disease is coming from, and it is actually human activities and travel that spread the virus.”

She said her future work would assess the risks of humans infecting susceptible North American wildlife, which in turn could carry the virus in the long term. She stressed the importance of developing guidelines to prevent human-to-animal spread.

Oliver Gao, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the College of Engineering, developed computer models to reveal how air pollution in cities has declined due to reduced travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. But as places like New York City reopen, he said, we can expect more people to avoid public transportation and drive, resulting in even higher emission rates.

His models show that telecommuting, electric transportation, and staggering daily start and stop times for businesses can reduce overall emissions, he said.

Finally, Allison Stout, veterinarian and doctoral student at Whittaker’s lab, discussed the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in cats at an animal health hospital in New York City.

The summit concluded with a forum for reflection and discussion, which included opportunities for Cornell research groups to network and develop new collaborations.

Praveen Sethupathy, Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences and Director of the Center for Vertebrate Genomics, co-hosted the event, which was sponsored by the Office of the Vice-President, Research, Office of the Vice-President, Academic Integration, the Office of the Senior Associate Dean for Research at Weill Cornell Medicine and the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability.

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