60% human diseases originate in animals: Could One Health tackle this?

60% human diseases originate in animals: One Health could keep antibiotics working
© iStock/Yuri_Arcurs

The One Health approach unites human, animal, food and environment professionals to tackle human diseases and fight antimicrobial resistance.

It is discovered that many of the same bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites affect both animals and humans via the environment they share and 60% of all human diseases originate from within animals. Therefore, when microbes develop drug resistance in animals, they can easily go on to affect humans, making it difficult to treat diseases and infections. This year, in the spirit of One Health, the WHO European Region will mark the 4th annual World Antibiotic Awareness Week on 12–18 November, by cohesively working together with different sectors to protect human, animal and environment health.

Human diseases and antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistance is a growing threat to global health. And as a result of infection with drug-resistant bacteria an estimated 700,000 people die each year worldwide.

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe explains: “Human, animal and environment health are all equally responsible for the correct use of antimicrobials and to avert the threat of antimicrobial resistance.

“As we strive to ensure that antibiotics are rightly used in the community and in health-care settings, one sector alone will not solve the problem. A ‘One Health’ approach brings together professionals in human, animal, food and environment health as one force, and as such is the only way to keep antibiotics working. I call on all European countries to secure the highest commitment to this approach from the whole of society and the whole of government.”

Andrea Ammon, Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) added: “Since the rates of antibiotic resistance and the rates of antibiotic consumption as well as infection prevention practices vary from country to country, it is essential to tailor strategies to address specific needs”.

One Health unites us all

In light of World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2018, WHO/Europe is uniting with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Sub-Regional Representation for Central Asia to encourage governments to embrace or reinforce their use of the One Health approach.

The urgency of One Health and addressing human diseases that can develop over time from antimicrobial resistance is vital for several reasons:

  • Antimicrobials being used in the production of livestock to promote growth and sometimes to prevent infection, rather than treating the animal, therefore means there is an unnecessary overuse of antimicrobials, which can lead to more drug resistance.
  • Moreover, the same type of antimicrobials is typically used in both humans and food-producing animals. This therefore affects the food chain.

Such situations demonstrate that the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance cannot be tackled via a single sector, as the scope is far too large. However, by collectively taking action, a One Health approach could significantly assist in making progress across the globe.


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