UC Davis veterinarian pushes 'One Health' system for scientific literature

The concept of One Health--that of veterinarians and human doctors working together to fight diseases that affect animals and people--is well established and often encouraged by industry leaders like Zoetis ($ZTS). Now one academic is adding her voice to the increasingly popular concept by suggesting that the barriers separating scientific literature published by veterinary scientists and those working primarily in human health be demolished.

Mary Christopher, a professor of pathology, microbiology and immunology at UC Davis' veterinary school, published a paper in the journal Science Translational Medicine pointing out that companion animals can serve as useful models for several human diseases including diabetes and cancer. But she points out that "cross-species awareness" is hampered by the frequent separation of peer-reviewed journals into silos defined as either animal health or human health.

"Even as spontaneous animal models of human diseases merge into the mainstream of translational medicine, traditional boundaries in the biomedical literature--peer-reviewed journals and their knowledge domains--continue to reinforce separation between animal and human health by demarcating species-specific contexts for organizing, retrieving, citing, and publishing," Christopher writes. Although veterinarians often read traditional medical journals, she points out, physicians are less likely to read veterinary journals. Therefore they might not be aware of research and discoveries in animals that might be directly translatable to people.

She goes on to suggest a "one literature" approach to publishing, which would encourage further collaborations between scientists, physicians and veterinarians. Under this system, veterinary journals would be indexed according to medical specialties, and journal editors would call on both veterinarians and physicians to review manuscripts. "One Literature also challenges publishers to develop collaborative veterinary-medicine ventures, such as joint publications, that facilitate connections between the professions," Christopher writes.

The concept of One Health has been catching on of late. In March, Zoetis was a major voice at the 3rd International One Health Congress in Amsterdam, where executives from the company expressed worries that 60% of infectious human diseases are originating in wild animals and 75% of emerging illnesses can be transmitted from animals to people. The Brussels-based trade organization HealthforAnimals is also a major advocate of One Health.

- access the Science Translational Medicine paper here (sub. req.)