One Health, emerging infectious diseases and wildlife: two decades of progress?

14 Jul 2017

Infectious diseases affect people, domestic animals and wildlife alike, with many pathogens being able to infect multiple species. Fifty years ago, following the wide-scale manufacture and use of antibiotics and vaccines, it seemed that the battle against infections was being won for the human population. Since then, however, and in addition to increasing antimicrobial resistance among bacterial pathogens, there has been an increase in the emergence of, mostly viral, zoonotic diseases from wildlife, sometimes causing fatal outbreaks of epidemic proportions. Concurrently, infectious disease has been identified as an increasing threat to wildlife conservation. A synthesis published in 2000 showed common anthropogenic drivers of disease threats to biodiversity and human health, including encroachment and destruction of wildlife habitat and the human-assisted spread of pathogens. Almost two decades later, the situation has not changed and, despite improved knowledge of the underlying causes, little has been done at the policy level to address these threats. For the sake of public health and wellbeing, human-kind needs to work better to conserve nature and preserve the ecosystem services, including disease regulation, that biodiversity provides while also understanding and mitigating activities which lead to disease emergence. We consider that holistic, One Health approaches to the management and mitigation of the risks of emerging infectious diseases have the greatest chance of success.This article is part of the themed issue 'One Health for a changing world: zoonoses, ecosystems and human well-being'.