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One Health/EcoHealth approaches to understand zoonotic and foodborne diseases in Southeast Asia

Guest edited by Delia Grace, Hung Nguyen, Jakob Zinsstag, Ian Doohoo, John McDermott, Fang Jing and Cao Bao Van

An article collection in Infectious Diseases of Poverty.

Infectious Diseases of PovertyDuring the last three decades, a “Livestock Revolution” has been occurring in Southeast Asia (SEA) countries. With increasing income and demand for meat, dairy and egg products, livestock has become the fastest growing component of the agricultural sector. Livestock intensification is characterized by high-input practices, including the use of industrial feeds and antimicrobial drugs, and keeping animals in high-density housing. This process can cause both environmental and public health problems, while also neglecting the needs of poor farmers who still rely on subsistent livestock production. About 75% of new diseases affecting humans over the past decade have been caused by pathogens originating from animals or animal products. Zoonotic emerging infectious diseases threaten human, animal and environmental health, representing one-quarter of the overall infectious disease burden in least developed countries. SEA is considered as a hot spot for zoonoses, with the potential for serious socio-economic, environmental and development consequences.

The International Livestock Research Institute, in collaboration with several local and international partners, have undertaken over the last 10 years numerous studies to look at the presence of zoonotic disease in the region, as well as estimating the health and socio-economic burden they place on society. ILRI and partners have also worked on the issues of food safety and antimicrobial use and resistance in a socio-ecological context of livestock intensification. The studies aim at gathering needed evidence to help inform appropriate policies to manage the risk of endemic and emerging zoonotic and foodborne threats, following the One Health and EcoHealth principles. 

We have concluded recently 4 projects with partners: i) “Ecosystem Approaches to the Better Management of Zoonotic Emerging Infectious Diseases in Southeast Asia (EcoZD), ii) An ecohealth approach to develop a strategy for the prudent use of antimicrobials to control antimicrobial resistance in human, animal, and environmental (Ecohealth AMR), iii) Livestock multi-pathogen study, iv) Climate sensitive diseases in SEA (Pestforecast). We worked directly with more than 100 key zoonotic emerging infectious diseases management actors across eight multi-disciplinary teams in six countries to attain project outcomes and deliver substantial outputs. Ecohealth experts were mobilized from within and outside the Southeast Asia region. A range of other projects have taken the same approach to investigating the mechanisms of zoonotic spread and transmission in the region. This includes studies on antimicrobial resistant bacteria, leptospirosis, Japanese encephalitis, trichinosis, cysticercosis as well as other important diseases, likely to have a higher burden on the poorest people. 

These projects have generated rich datasets on the presence of endemic and emerging zoonotic diseases in Southeast Asia, among both domestic animals and humans. They also exemplify the put in practice of the EcoHealth and One Health principles in the investigation of zoonotic risk. As country teams wrap up the projects, we would like to collate a selection of 17 papers of the upcoming publications in a special edition in a reputable scientific journal. The special edition will provide a set of review and original papers of various diseases or threats of zoonotic, AMR, foodborne nature using a One Health / Ecohalth approach in SEA.

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