Fighting the COVID-19 pandemic– Only a „One Health“-strategy can lead to success
A statement of the head offices of the German Research Platform for Zoonoses on the current COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic is currently keping the whole world in suspense. The novel coronavirus, which was presumably first transmitted from aninmals to humans in China, is spreading globally at high speed by human-to-human transmission. Such zoonotic events are not rare. About two thirds of all new emerging diseases originate from animals. Coronaviruses demonstrated their zoonotic potential already in the past in the form of SARS and MERS.
In the fight against COVID-19 we are currently lacking suitable therapeutics and vaccines. Biologist, pharmacologist, veterinarians and medical doctors among others are working together in research to find means and ways for prophylaxis and treatment as soon as possible.
Until such means are available, the spread of the virus must be prevented by classical disease hygiene measures: identification of infected persons by diagnostic tests, isolation and quarantine of infected as well as disinfection measurements. Here we require a close cooperation between laboratory diagnostics, epidemiology, sociology and biostatistics in order to understand spreading dynamics. Economists estimate the costs of control measures. And politics and the public authorities set the frame for the implementation.
Only through such a One Health approach across all disciplines, the fight against COVID-19 can succeed. The German Research Platform for Zoonoses thanks all scientists, doctors, employees of the health sector and all others involved for their tremendous input and their willingness to work together and appeals to everybody to conserve this common spirit beyond the pandemic. Here, politics in particular is called upon to make this possible through appropriate framework conditions.
It is essential for politics to receive the broadest possible scientific advice in order to be able to always implement the appropriate control measures at the right time. An important contribution to reach this goal could be the nomination of an interdisciplinary pandemic commission.
However, each person can make a contribution. In particular by complying with the measures in Germany that have been installed to slow down the spreading of SARS-CoV-2. Only this will provide the health system with the possibility to deal with the challenge. Everybody can contribute by reducing social contacts and by keeping the contact to vulnerable groups at a minimum. Even though it might not be easy, stay home and you help the society!
The new pathogen, which arose from the animal kingdom, demonstrates the relevance of interdisciplinary cooperation in overcoming the crisis and learning from it. As experiences in zoonoses research have demonstrated in the past, merging expertise and resources from human and veterinary medicine as well as from fundamental research and the public health sector provides forces and possibilities of new dimensions. An interdisciplinary approach according to the One Health concept is possible on the following levels:
- provision of infrastructure
- research on therapeutics and vaccines
- surveillance und epidemiology
- development of models and early-warning-systems
- investigation of the impact of environmental factors and climate change on the development and spreading of zoonoses
The German Research Platform on Zoonoses therefore advocates considering the fight against COVID-19 as a "One Health" task and accordingly to involve all disciplines. In order to accelerate the achievement of results and success in overcoming the crisis such a coordinated and joined approach is of immense importance.
The head offices of the German Research Platform for Zoonoses