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Tools are needed to control infectious animal diseases

New research has identified a lack of appropriate control tools for many infectious diseases of animals that could impact the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The impacts of animal disease go beyond public health and can lead to socio-economic effects for those who rely on livestock for income. 

In most cases, animal diseases are global problems and need a global approach to control them. For this study, an international team of animal health experts assessed the current state of available control tools for 53 major infectious diseases of animals.

The scientists used DISCONTOOLS – an open-access database for animal health research to assess the current state of appropriate control tools for 53 major infectious diseases of animals.

The DISCONTOOLS resource was then used to prioritize the list of infectious animal diseases where appropriate control tools are lacking and where addressing this need would help achieve the relevant SDGs.

The results show that there is an urgent need for the development of diagnostics that can differentiate infected animals from vaccinated animals and assess disease characteristics like transmissibility, impact on animal productivity and welfare.

Utilizing technological advances could also help make diagnostics widely available and affordable. The scientists call for further research to improve the convenience of use and duration of immunity, and to establish performant marker vaccines.

“Animal health is a prerequisite for global health, economic development, food security, food quality and poverty reduction while mitigating against climate change and biodiversity loss,” said Dr. Johannes Charlier, project manager of DISCONTOOLS.

“If we are to achieve the SDGs, further research into appropriate control tools is needed to reduce the burden of animal diseases, including zoonoses, and to manage emerging diseases, pandemic threats and antimicrobial and antiparasitic resistance.” 

The research team also noted that the largest gap in animal pharmaceuticals is the threat of pathogens developing resistance to available drugs, namely bacterial and parasitic pathogens.

Five research priorities for animal health that will help deliver a sustainable and healthy planet were identified by the research theme. These include vaccinology, antimicrobial resistance, climate mitigation and adaptation, digital health and epidemic preparedness.

“The potential for transfer of infectious diseases between animals and people is a One Health challenge recognised at the highest level, signalling that it is high-time for all of us to move from firefighting to fire prevention,” said Roxane Feller, secretary general of AnimalhealthEurope.

“By public and private investments in innovative early research, the animal health industry as a whole can focus on unlocking the secrets needed to develop new generations of vaccines, diagnostics and other therapies to prevent animal disease and avoid the negative effects.”

International efforts should focus on developing control tools for a range of priority infectious diseases of animals, including African swine fever, foot and mouth disease, and bovine tuberculosis. 

However, progress is needed across a wide range of zoonotic, endemic and epidemic diseases to secure a healthy planet for humans, animals and the environment.

The study is published in The Lancet Planetary Health.

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By Katherine Bucko, Staff Writer

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