A recent article published in the International Journal of Parasitology aims some criticism towards the relatively new ‘One-Health’ concept.


‘One Health’ focuses on disease interactions between wildlife, domestic, environmental, and human health towards contemporary health initiatives.  We can think of it as a One Health Triad: human, domestic animal, and wildlife health. It’s a pretty new way to think about health and has lots of cool collaborative benefits. But yes, it’s still growing.

Dr. Andrew Thompson of Murdoch University, Australia, suggests that One Health needs to be revised to account for asynchrony in transmission dynamics between wildlife and humans.  Specifically, he criticizes the platform for considering each wildlife, livestock, environmental, and human component with equal weight. Realistically, he argues, human modifications of the landscape are having direct effects on wildlife health and indirect effects on animal stress, magnifying the burden on animal immune systems possibly resulting in greater mortality.  That means there are many circumstances where transmission is one-way, from animal to human. Yet, we are not focusing on the impacts of humans on animal health. Transmission dynamics are very complex, so we need to think about them using more complexity.


Personally, I think these prescribed asynchronous disease dynamics already exist within the established One Health platform. A focus on wildlife may not be explicit in ‘One-Health’ but it’s an inherent part of the way ‘One-Health-ers’ think. One must consider the dynamic abiotic and biotic effects of disease transmission within and between wild animals, domestic animals, and humans.  In some cases these dynamics are generalizable among different host-pathogen systems, but many are very specific in nature.

Speaking from experience, much of my research focuses on wildlife disease reservoirs.  Reservoirs are usually considered populations of animals that maintain a parasitic infection with little to no net mortality effects on the population. A reservoir population is considered a source of infection for another susceptible population, be it wildlife, domestic livestock, or in some cases, human.

Good reservoirs are usually pretty stable, robust kinds of animals. They can even be considered robust against stress. Mice, for example, are great reservoirs for a suite of pathogens: Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi); Hantavirus (Sin Nombre Virus); and many ectoparasites that can carry virulent parasites.

But, like many opportunists, mice typically thrive in degraded environments like farms, cities, or resource extraction sites. That means lots of animals, potentially carrying lots of parasites, in high-human density areas.  That should be pretty stressful for the animals, but stress-induced parasitism isn’t that common for these generalist species. Raccoons, coyotes, skunks are all examples of generalists that may act as disease reservoirs but are generally uninfluenced by stressors in human-dominated environments. Reservoir research is a major part of One Health programme. So, Thompson’s argument to re-focus towards a wildlife-health perspective may already inherently exist.

Do we need to re-design ‘One Health’ to incorporate weighted-impacts on disease dynamics?  Perhaps, but I expect this may come with improved communication and consolidation of disease knowledge among scientists. Burgeoning domains such as zoonotic ecology, landscape epidemiology, and agricultural ecology necessarily consider complexity in their analyses are examples of this momentum. Therefore, like so many contemporary perspectives in science, it is the scientific community that must unite to combine results, discuss opinions, and maintain an evolution of the holistic perspective of One Health.

In my opinion, One-Healthers are thinking in the right direction… they just need exchange ideas a little more.



Thompson, A. R. C. (2013) Parasite zoonoses and wildlife: One health, spillover and human activity. International Journal for Parasitology, 43:1079-1088.

A comment on this publication can be found here:



CONFERENCE: EcoHealth 2014

Conference link:


Welcome to the EcoHealth 2014 conference

Co-hosted by the Canadian Community of Practice in EcoHealth (CoPEH-Canada) and the Interdisciplinary Research Center on Biology, Health, Society and Environment (Cinbiose) of the Université du Québec at Montréal (UQAM). EcoHealth 2014 will be held in Montréal from August 11th to 15th, 2014.


Ecohealth is a field that strives for “sustainable health of people, wildlife and ecosystems by promoting discovery, understanding and transdisciplinarity” (IAEH). The growth in interest and scholarly engagement with ecohealth is demonstrated by the strong communities of practice, groups and networks that have developed, by institutional uptake by large organizations such as the Pan-American Health Organization and through the continued development of the EcoHealth journal and International Association of Ecology & Health (IAEH).


EcoHealth conferences are characterized by being open to innovative ways of thinking within and beyond academia and by encouraging transdisciplinary, integrated approaches to health that consider humans, animals and other species. For researchers, educators, practitioners and decision-makers, EcoHealth conferences provide a range of opportunities to foster connections among diverse disciplines and approaches.

For EcoHealth 2014, the central theme of Connections for health, ecosystems and society reinforces the importance of connections and learning among the various approaches and perspectives that compose the mosaic of the field, and encourages involvement of collaborators from outside of academia to participate actively in the conference. We hope the conference will help build new connections between groups and individuals working to find solutions to the complex array of problems emerging at the confluence of health, environment and society.

Three main themes have been put forward for EcoHealth 2014 Conference:

  • Drivers of change to health, ecosystems and society: Integrating understanding from global to local scales
  • Innovations in theory, methods and practice
  • Moving between research and action: Mobilizing knowledge to benefit health, ecosystems, and society

RADIOLAB: Parasites


RADIOLAB: Parasites

Check out this flipping awesome Radiolab problem on the overwhelmingly common world of parasites.


Great article from last year in the New York Times:



More evidence that wildlife health is linked to human health:


Influenza_2A new human H7N9 influenza A case has been confirmed in east China’s Zhejiang province as of Tuesday, October 15th, 2013.

By the end of August 2013, cases of H7N9 bird flu cases in China reached 134. 45 patients have died.

H7N9 is a new type of flu that has made the jump from birds to people in China.

Should we be worried about an H7N9 epidemic?  Not just yet.  As of right now, H7N9 can only spread from animal (bird) to human.  It has been detected in chickens, ducks, and pigeons at markets in China.  Unless you have close contact with birds in the regions affected, the risks are low… but this can change as the virus mutates.

Check out the news alert here:

China confirms new human H7N9 infection


Influenza is an infectious disease of birds and mammals caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae

– Symptoms of H7N9 is mainly severe pneumonia. The virus can overload the immune system. Blood poisoning and organ failure are also possible.

– The H’s and N’s are used to classify different types of Influenza A. The ‘H’ stands for HAEMAGGLUTININ and the ‘N’ stands for NEURAMINIDASE. Both are proteins on the surface of the virus which come in different varieties, each of which is given a different number; hence, H7N9, in this case.

– The ‘flu’ is considered a ‘zoonotic’, or animal borne, pathogen. Zoonotic diseases are shared among humans and animals, though the pathway is commonly animal-to-human.

– 70% of all emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases in humans have animal origin


ProMED Mail

Xinhua News Agency

Reperant, L. A. (2009) Applying the theory of island biogeography to emerging pathogens: toward predicting the sources of future emerging zoonotic and vector-borne diseases. Vector-borne and Zoonotic Diseases, 10(2):105-110.

Uyeki, T. M. and Cox, N. J. (2013) Global concerns regarding novel influenza A (H7N9) virus infections. The New England Journal of Medicine, 368:1862-1864.

InfluenzaThe WHO recently released the 2013 Global Influenza update. As for us here in North America, specifically Canada and the United States, influenza activity has remained low.

This is not the case for many other regions, where interseasonal fluctuations in influenza patterns are in some cases quite dramatic (For example, read up on the Australia and New Zealand flu detections in the following summary).



Follow THE OUTBREAK for influenza alerts and more regional summaries. Acknowledgments: ProMED Mail; WHO 2013

Salmonellosis update: 5 hospitalized, 45 treated, 8 confirmed


ad_117528662An outbreak of rabies has been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Most recently, there was a report of the transmission between human-to-human: an infected baby bit the infant’s father and brother.  All 3 succumbed to the infection, summing to 10 total deaths since the onset of the outbreak. 154 are infected.

Most typically, dogs are the sources, or ‘reservoirs’, of infection for humans, but this particular human-baby-to-human-adult mode of rabid transmission is the kind of fiction we’re used to seeing on the screen, zombie-Epidepics most specifically.  For epidemiologists, it’s time to get serious once pathogens shift towards transmission among humans.

Are we seeing the dawn of a rabies-like zombiepocalypse? Likely not: it takes some time and some evolution for H-2-H to happen frequently. But this rare means of spread certainly draws some concern.

Check out the source here:
Infant with rabies infected father and brother by biting them

The World Health Organization Rabies fact page can be seen here:
WHO Rabies Fact Sheet

Add ‘World Rabies Day‘ to yer iCals:

World Rabies Day



55 000 people die due to rabies infections every year;

Rabies occurs in more than 150 countries and territories;

It’s categorized is a zoonotic disease: it’s shared between animals and humans, though transmission normally takes place from infected wild or domestic animals to humans. ~70% of all human infectious diseases are zoonotic and therefore have animal origin.