Zoonoses and antibiotic resistance: a one health approach

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Martina Trevisiol, a third-year student at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, University of L’Aquila, Italy. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Climate change. Two of the most heard words today. Every year, environmental factors kill around 13 million people: studies show that the more the ecosystem changes, the more biodiversity gets lost; the more biodiversity gets lost, the more zoonoses[1] spread; the more zoonoses spread, the more antibiotics are used; a practice which is deemed to increase pathogens’ resistance towards antibiotics.

Zoonoses represent a major public health problem around the world due to our close relationship with animals in many fields. Antimicrobial resistance is a complicating factor in the control and prevention of zoonoses. The use of antibiotics in animals raised for food is widespread and increases the potential for drug-resistant strains of zoonotic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is on the front line to avoid the spreading of these diseases.

Some of the 2030 Global Health Agenda objectives are: to reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water, and soil pollution and contamination; to achieve universal and equitable access to safe drinking water for all and to sanitation and hygiene for all; to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, tropical diseases, to combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases.

How can we reach these objectives?

WHO works with national governments, non-governmental and philanthropic organizations to prevent and manage zoonotic threats and their public health, social and economic impacts. These efforts include fostering cross-sectoral collaboration at the human-animal-environment interface at regional, national and international levels.

As part of the One Health approach[2], WHO collaborates with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) on the Global Early Warning System for Major Animal Diseases (GLEWS) to combine and coordinate alert mechanisms to assist in early warning, prevention and control of animal disease threats, including zoonoses. The cooperation between different professional figures is a key element in the One Health approach.

To contribute to these objectives, in September 2004 the European Union (EU) funded the MedVetNet Association (www.medvetnet.org) to integrate and coordinate the skills and experiences of doctors and veterinarians.

Climate change affects all aspects of public health. Healthy societies rely on well-functioning ecosystems to provide clean air, potable water and food security, lowering the transmission rate of several infectious diseases.

Biodiversity loss is happening at a massive rate, increasing the risk of potentially fatal infectious diseases and causing changes in the way we look at public health.


[1] A zoonosis is an infectious disease that has jumped from a non-human animal to humans. Zoonotic pathogens may be bacterial, viral or parasitic, or may involve unconventional agents and can spread to humans through direct contact or through food, water or the environment.

[2] An approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes. One Health approach is mainly relevant in food safety, the control of zoonoses, and combatting antibiotic resistance.

About the author

Martina Trevisiol is a third-year student at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery, University of L’Aquila, Italy. She’s affiliated to SISM Italy (Segretariato Italiano degli Studenti in Medicina), part of the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

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