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January 2011
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From the President: The Intersection of Human and Animal Health

At the 48th Annual Meeting of IDSA in October, I had the privilege of moderating two press conferences highlighting some of the notable abstracts presented in Vancouver. One of these, presented by Charles Y. Chiu, MD, from the University of California-San Francisco, identified a novel adenovirus as the cause of a deadly outbreak of pneumonia and hepatitis in a Titi monkey colony. The virus also appeared to have infected a researcher, who fortunately survived. The abstract is available online.

These findings were another small but important reminder of the convergence of people, animals, and the environment that inextricably links the health of everyone on the planet. According to one study, over the past 70 years, more than 60 percent of emerging infections have been zoonotic diseases resulting from cross-species transmission.  Some examples include AIDS, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, SARS, and avian and pandemic influenza.

Recognizing the importance of these fundamental linkages and their relevance to public health, concerned members of both the human and animal health disciplines are urging greater interdisciplinary collaboration and communication, under an approach known as “One Health.”

Cooperation between human and animal health experts can only improve the surveillance, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and control of cross-species transmission and emerging infections. During the SARS outbreak, for example, it quickly became apparent that the veterinary community’s knowledge of animal coronaviruses would be helpful in the understanding of and response to the emergence of this new coronavirus in people. This surely won’t be the last time such collaboration is beneficial.

In May 2010, in an effort to create an opportunity for dialogue around zoonotic disease issues in the spirit of “One Health,” IDSA invited several members of the veterinary and animal health communities to take part in a meeting of the Society’s National and Global Public Health Committee, chaired by Deborah Cotton, MD, MPH, FIDSA. There was a robust discussion about ways IDSA could increase collaboration with its veterinary partners. More discussions are planned.

This past fall, the committee also added a veterinary member, Marguerite Pappaioanou, DVM, MPVM, to represent the “One Health” philosophy and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, where she serves as executive director. Dr. Pappaioanou’s input to this committee, currently chaired by Ruth Lynfield, MD, FIDSA, will be helpful as IDSA continues to explore collaborations with its partners in animal health.

In another example of the strong connections between human and animal health, in late 2010 the American Veterinary Medical Association joined more than 25 other medical societies and organizations that have endorsed IDSA’s 10 x ’20 initiative, which calls for the development of 10 new antibiotics by 2020. We welcome this endorsement, as it will take the involvement and support of many stakeholders across many disciplines to achieve the initiative’s important goal.

As part of the Society’s efforts to address antibiotic resistance, IDSA also continues to advocate for judicious use of antibiotics in clinical settings and on farms to help protect patients and the general public against antibiotic-resistant infections. In December 2010, following efforts by IDSA and other organizations, the Food and Drug Administration released for the first time estimates of the amount of antibiotics sold for use in domestic food animal production. For more information, please see the related article in this issue of IDSA News.

This month’s newsletter also features several other noteworthy IDSA updates:

  • New details about how to qualify for Medicare physician payment incentives—and how to avoid potential payment penalties in the future—as health care reform legislation is implemented are now available on the IDSA website.
  • IDSA’s Seasonal and Pandemic Influenza meeting was held Jan. 27-28 in Arlington, Va., and an online on-demand webcast of the program, including the opportunity to earn CME credit, is now available. The planning committee, led by Richard Whitley, MD, FIDSA; Arnold Monto, MD, FIDSA; and Kathleen Neuzil, MD, MPH, FIDSA, with the assistance of Andrew Pavia, MD, FIDSA, chair of IDSA’s Pandemic Influenza Task Force, developed an excellent program examining lessons learned from the H1N1 pandemic that will result in the updating of IDSA’s Pandemic and Seasonal Influenza Principles for U.S. Action.

As these updates show, the Society’s important work continues, focusing on the needs of a diverse membership and providing valuable resources to members.
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