DBT Launched First ‘One Health’ Project

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    • Recently, the Department of Biotechnology launched the First ‘One Health’ project in post-COVID times. 
      • It envisages carrying out surveillance of important bacterial, viral and parasitic infections of zoonotic (diseases that can spread between animals and humans) as well as transboundary pathogens in India, including the North-eastern part of the country. 

    What is One Health Approach?

    • It is an approach to design and implement programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes.
    • It focuses on the interconnectedness of animals, humans and the environment.
    • The areas of work in which a One Health approach is particularly relevant include food safety, the control of zoonoses (diseases that can spread between animals and humans, such as flu, rabies and Rift Valley Fever), and combating antibiotic resistance (when bacteria change after being exposed to antibiotics and become more difficult to treat).

    Image Courtesy: Lancet

    Need & Significance

    • COVID-19 pandemic showed the relevance of ‘One Health’ principles in the governance of infectious diseases, especially in preventing zoonotic diseases.
    • The risk of infectious agents is crossing the barriers and spreading rapidly around the globe due to increased travel, food habits and trade across borders.
    • Zoonotic diseases have devastating impacts on animals, humans, health systems, and economies, requiring years of social and economic recovery. 
    • Information on influenza viruses circulating in animals is crucial to the selection of viruses for human vaccines for potential influenza pandemics. 
    • Saving lives along with the livelihoods.
    • Drug-resistant microbes can be transmitted between animals and humans through direct contact between animals and humans or through contaminated food, so to effectively contain it, a well-coordinated approach in humans and in animals is required.

    Steps by India for One Health Targets

    • India established a National Standing Committee on Zoonoses in the 1980s.
    • In February 2020, funds were allocated for the setting up of the Centre for One Health at Nagpur.
    • Further, the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD), under the Ministry of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries, has launched several schemes to mitigate the prevalence of animal diseases since 2015.
      • Under the National Animal Disease Control Programme, Rs. 13,343 crores have been sanctioned for Foot and Mouth disease and Brucellosis control.
      • It will also establish a ‘One Health’ unit within the Ministry.
      • It has partnered with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the National Action Plan for Eliminating Dog-Mediated Rabies.
        • This initiative is geared towards sustained mass dog vaccinations and public education to render the country free of rabies.
    • The government is revamping Assistance to States for Control of Animal Diseases (ASCAD).
      • ASCAD focuses on capacity building for veterinarians and upgrading the animal health diagnostic system.
    • There is increased focus on vaccination against livestock diseases and backyard poultry and assistance is extended to State biological production units and disease diagnostic laboratories.

    Global Efforts

    • The WHO works closely with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to promote multi-sectoral responses to food safety hazards, risks from zoonoses, and other public health threats at the human-animal-ecosystem interface and provide guidance on how to reduce these risks.

    Challenges

    • Veterinary manpower shortages.
    • Lack of information sharing between human and animal health institutions.
    • Inadequate coordination on food safety at slaughter, distribution, and retail facilities.
    • Risk of more pandemics as more than 1.7 million viruses circulating in wildlife with potential threats to human health.

    Suggestions/Way Forward

    • There is a need for better and strong coordination between all stakeholders and agencies.
    • Existing animal health and disease surveillance systems should be consolidated.
      • The Information Network for Animal Productivity and Health and the National Animal Disease Reporting System are developing best-practice guidelines for informal market and slaughterhouse operation and creating mechanisms to operationalise ‘One Health’ at every stage down to the village level.
    • Awareness generation and increased investments are needed toward meeting ‘One Health’ targets.
    • Many professionals with a range of expertise who are active in different sectors, such as public health, animal health, plant health and the environment, should join forces to support One Health approaches.
      • Government officials, researchers and workers across sectors at the local, national, regional and global levels should implement joint responses to health threats.

    Source: DTE