A One Health Tango in Paris

Posted on May 31, 2019 by Simon Doherty

I was in Paris for three days at the start of this week, as I joined the UK delegation at the 87th OIE General Session. On Monday evening Lord Gardiner, Defra Minister, and Christine Middlemiss, UK CVO, hosted a UK One Health Science reception at the UK Ambassador’s residence close to the Champs Elysées and I was asked to say a few words.

Group on stairs at Ambassador’s residenceThe OIE is the Office International des Epizooties, now known as the World Organisation for Animal Health. It is the international body responsible for setting standards in the detection, control and eradication of animal diseases across the globe. It monitors the activities of its reference laboratories and helps the authorities in its 182 member countries to build structures for animal health and disease surveillance. This in turn facilitates a look at the ‘big picture’ of emerging and re-emerging diseases and enables coordinated transboundary approaches to the control and eradication of pandemic infections.

Themes in focus

Understandably, there was a significant focus on African Swine Fever (ASF) – a disease which is causing significant mortalities in pigs across Eastern Europe, Russia and China; remember, over half the world’s pigs live in China! The greatest challenge is the lack of an efficacious vaccine, mainly due to the variability of surface antigens on the virus.

Following the successful global eradication of rinderpest (Cattle Plague), another focus for OIE is the next steps required to eradicate Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), a significant viral disease of sheep and goats. Aquaculture, as a means of sustainably producing dietary protein for a growing population, is also rising up the agenda at OIE meetings, as is the effect of climate change on animal health and welfare.

OIE SG87 logoOf course, it would also be impossible to attend an animal health strategy meeting without mention of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – OIE is working hard to build international capacity and capability to ensure that surveillance and reporting of AMR is consistent and reliable. They are also working closely with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as part of a One Health approach to improving antimicrobial usage and reducing AMR.

A nod to interdisciplinary collaboration

By attending part of the OIE General Session, we have an opportunity to network with global leaders in their fields, so I was able to meet with CVOs and officers of representative organisations from all over the world and share experiences.

Nearly 200 people attended the UK One Health Reception. We were welcomed to the official residence by the Minister of the Embassy, Matthew Lodge, before Lord Gardiner addressed the audience talking about the strengths of the UK agri-food supply chain, underpinned by a strong science base with international collaborations. Deputy Director General of the OIE, Matthew Stone, responded by saying that the UK plays a crucial role in global disease surveillance, not least through a number of OIE reference laboratories at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and at the Pirbright Institute.

Talking One Health

Simon presenting One Veterinary CommunityIn my speech, I referenced my presidential theme – One Veterinary Community – how this recognised the strength of the national and international veterinary team as well as nodding to interdisciplinary collaboration through a One Health approach. I described our work in establishing the UK One Health Coordination Group, engagement around AMR and our involvement in the sixth World One Health Congress in Edinburgh in June 2020.

“As an association, we are absolutely convinced that collaboration – between the veterinary profession, government, farmers, pet owners, research and academic sectors, and the wider animal health and aquaculture industries – is key to optimising animal health, animal welfare, productivity, and public and environmental wellbeing.”

OIE reception

The main purpose of the reception was to facilitate plenty of networking - Christine Middlemiss, UK CVO, briefly introduced representatives of APHA, Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), CEFAS and the Pirbright Institute. Christine highlighted the UK, European and international capabilities and impact of the organisations and how they feed in to UK One Health Science offer around animal health and welfare, human-animal bonds and sustainability.

Simon Doherty

Written by Simon Doherty

BVA President

Simon Doherty is President of BVA. He is a past-president of the North of Ireland Veterinary Association and of the Northern Ireland Branch of BVA. Simon is a senior lecturer at the Institute of Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast and is a certified aquaculture vet. He is a trustee of livestock development charity, Send a Cow, and of the Animal Welfare Foundation. Simon Doherty became President of BVA in September 2018.