2016-11-10 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Last Thursday, November 3rd was the first “One Health Day” celebrated around the globe with seminars and workshops at 140 scientific and medical institutions. “One Health” has been defined in many ways. In essence, “One Health” fosters a collaborative approach to issues which intersect human, animal and environmental health. Doctors, veterinarians and scientists share findings and learn from each other.

Although “One Health” is not a new concept, it has become more important in recent years. Interactions among people, animals and the environment continue to change. The expansion of human and animal populations, changes in climate and land use, and increased international travel and trade provide opportunities for disease spread. Approximately 75% of recently emerging infectious diseases affecting humans are diseases of animal origin; about 60% of all human pathogens are zoonotic which means these diseases are spread between people and animals.

The “One Health” initiative is more than a study of contagion. It also examines how discoveries and treatments of the same disease or conditions (such as obesity) in humans and animals can overlap, differ or help various species. On November 3rd Global One Health Day, I attended a fascinating conference at The Animal Medical Center (AMC) in NYC which spotlighted connections and differences between Lyme, melanoma and diabetes in humans and dogs, cats and horses. Before delving into the specifics of these three diseases in future “Pets”, it’s important to detail more about the “One Health” concept.

“One Health” includes the health professions. But, it also brings in wildlife specialists, anthropologists, economists, environmentalists, behavioral scientists, and sociologists, among others. “One Health” embraces the idea that complex problems concerning people, animals and our environment can best be solved via multidisciplinary communication, cooperation, and collaboration.

History of “One Health”: A German scholar from the mid 1800’s, Rudolf Virchow, who came from a farming family, was an early proponent of “One Health”. He said: “Between animal and human medicine there is no dividing line—nor should there be. The object is different but the experience obtained constitutes the basis of all medicine.”

In 2004, the Wildlife Conservation Society hosted a symposium which brought together international human and animal health experts to discuss shared diseases among human, wild animal and domestic animal populations. This symposium introduced a set of interdisciplinary priorities to combat joint threats to human and animal health.

In 2007, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Medical Association formed the One Health Initiative task force. From 2008 to 2010 UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the Influenza Coordination of the United Nations proposed strategies to reduce the risk of infectious diseases between people and other species. With President Obama supporting “One Health” goals, the CDC set up “One Health” offices in 2009 while the USDA coordination center was formed in 2012.

Early Example of “One Health” in Practice: At the turn of the 20th century, about 20 percent of all human TB cases were caused by the organism responsible for bovine (cow) TB. From 1930-1941, the US reported 29,600 human cases of brucellosis. In addition to being transmissible from contact with live animals and carcasses, both diseases can be transmitted through milk. Today, due to doctors and vets working together to eliminate these diseases in cattle, both human and cattle cases have decreased dramatically.

“One Health” & West Nile: The first case of West Nile virus was detected in 1937 in a Ugandan district called West Nile, but the virus may have evolved 1,000 years before. In 1957 there was an outbreak in Israel afflicting patients with severe encephalitis. In 1960, it spread to people and horses in Egypt, France, Australia plus parts of Europe and Asia.

In 1999, the Western Hemisphere saw its first outbreak of West Nile virus in the NYC area. By the end of 2002, all but four Western states had reported cases of West Nile virus in animals and/or humans.

But how was West Nile diagnosed here? Elderly patients were dying from encephalitis in Queens; horses were ill in Aquebogue. No connection was made until birds began dying in the Bronx. Dr. Tracey McNamara chief pathologist at the Bronx Zoo began to see dead crows on the ground; by the end of summer 1999 she examined zoo residents-a dead flamingo, bald eagle and cormorant and found they succumbed to bleeding in the brain.

Initial tests erroneously pointed toward St. Louis encephalitis. Later Dr. McNamara had a hunch this was West Nile and convinced the CDC to test genetic material of the virus. The findings stunned experts because this virus had never been seen in North America. The search was broadened to genetic material inside the human viruses, and West Nile was the culprit again. One theory is the Asian Tiger, a new mosquito species, stowed away in stagnant pools of water inside tires coming here from China for recycling.

“One Health” & Osteosarcoma: This bone cancer occurs most often in children and adolescents, with African Americans and males more at risk. However, osteosarcoma is ten times more likely in dogs (100,000 cases each year) than in humans. Genetics can play a role- in people, genetic mutations and family histories with other cancers are suspect. Large and giant breeds, around eight years old, again males, are more prone. Scottish Deerhounds and Rottweilers are among breeds most afflicted. Evidence points to puppies growing too fast or being neutered young having an increased risk. This deadly cancer typically spreads to the lungs in people and dogs.

Because osteosarcoma is one of the few cancers that behaves the same in dogs and humans, scientists believe finding treatments that work in one species will also help the other. Funded by $500,000, a University of Kansas team is looking at human and canine cancer cells to look for the most effective drugs.

Meanwhile, Dr. Cheryl London at Ohio State explains another canine advantage: “Dogs age five to eight times faster than we do, and share our environment. A clinical trial in children with bone cancer can take five years to accrue enough patients, and then another five years for outcomes. So, you have ten years before you know something new, which is why the field moves so slowly. In veterinary oncology, we can complete a study in dogs with bone cancer within one year and have outcomes within two to three years.”

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Gilligan” 6-478 is a kitten wearing a grey tuxedo while “Brownie” 16-596 is an eight year-old Shepherd mix. Both would be much happier with a home.

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