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Coffee with Annemarie Rebel

Prof. Annemarie Rebel leads the Animal Health and Welfare Department within Wageningen University & Research. She is also Scientific Director Smart & Healthy Farming at NCOH. During a digital coffee she talked about her work and her interests.

Update from the NCOH Executive Board

First 5 year period

Coming months we are eagerly preparing the discussions on the continuation of NCOH after its first funding period; next year NCOH will exist 5 years! The Executive and Supervisory Board members are therefore involved to shape the new contours. If you are interested in contributing or are seeking more information, you can contact the Executive Board representative of your Partner organisation.

NCOH Annual Scientific Meeting

Due to the corona pandemic, many of our regular activities have been adapted. We are happy though to announce that we will hold our NCOH Annual Scientific Meeting on 29 October 2020! The event will be broadcasted digitally, and we will be discussing what lessons can, so far, be learned from the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The event is titled ‘From wildlife market to wild financial market’. Read more and register here.

NCOH Webinars on COVID-19

In the meantime, we have also initiated a series of monthly NCOH Webinars on COVID-19, with a special focus on the One Health approach to current challenges. We have hosted three webinars so far – on mink, aerosol, and immunity research – which you can watch on the NCOH YouTube channel. Keep an eye on our calendar for future editions!

NCOH brochure

Last but not least, we are very proud to present to you our new NCOH Brochure! It exemplifies where NCOH stands for and illustrates a few of our projects across all our four Strategic Research Themes. You can view the brochure online. Researchers of our Partner organisations can expect a printed copy soon!

Annemarie Rebel: from human medicine to livestock research

Annemarie Rebel started her career in obtaining her doctorate in human medicine from Erasmus University and spend some time abroad in the US at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and at Harvard in Boston. She then made the switch to livestock research at WUR where she is responsible for research into the interaction between animals and the environment, such as nutrition, pathogens, microbiome, and stress.

Stress is something we all experience during this pandemic. So how does Annemarie cope and what can we learn from her? Why did she made the switch to livestock research? In addition, what is her ambition with the NCOH?

Switch to livestock research

Annemarie enjoyed a successful career in research. Studying prostate cancer at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, and stroke recovery at Beth Israel Hospital, Boston. What attracted her to livestock research is the opportunity to be directly involved with stakeholders. In human medicine, research and patient care are separate pillars, while in veterinary medicine, researchers are often in direct contact with stakeholders, such as farmers, and the road to implementing research findings is short. This connection is what Annemarie enjoys.

Microbiome is an organ

In her current role as head of the Animal Health and Welfare Department, her research focus is on how animals respond to health challenges. Why are there differences in how the immune systems of individuals respond, rendering some sick, while others remain apparently unaffected. Some of this variance can be (partially) explained by genetic lineages (genotype) and how genes are activated (phenotype) as a result of housing, nutrition and feeding regimes, etc.

These factors could influence the microbiome of the individual animal. A complex balance between the microorganisms in our guts and the interaction with and influence on our immune system, brain and hormonal balance, guts and other organs, like lungs. According to Annemarie, the microbiome should be seen as an organ on its own that can suffer from its own ailments affecting the whole body.

Healthy livestock

For the immune system to be effective across its entire bandwidth, it has to respond in a balanced and accurate manner on health challenges. All aspects of the life of livestock animals need to be well catered for. Early in life adjustments can be made to help the animal adapt, optimize immune development, gene expression etc. To make these adjustments, when and in what direction to make these, early detection of an unbalance in the functioning of an animal is needed. Finding the right indicators, detecting abnormalities before the animal displays classic disease symptoms is the first step in creating healthier and resilient livestock.

The One Health circle

The ultimate goal for Annemarie is to gain a better understanding of how these factors influence the welfare and resilience of the animal and how findings can be translated and implemented at farm level. Creating healthier livestock results in higher welfare, less need for medical intervention such as the use of antibiotics, and thereby making a herd less susceptible to infection, potentially reducing the risk of disease outbreaks, and slowing down the speed with which outbreaks expand. This also reduces the risk to human health. Closing the One Health circle.

Ambition within NCOH

Annemarie is also Director Smart & Healthy Farming at the Netherlands Centre for One Health (NCOH). In this role, her ambition is to create more opportunities for cross-discipline education, creating more awareness and bridges between traditionally separate entities. Including social sciences, plant sciences, etc. The current and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for further education and understanding of the circularity of the One Health approach.

Catering the microbiome of family members

Annemarie lives in Lelystad in a house with a flower- and herb garden. She likes to cook (she cooked red wine poached pears for her colleagues in the US), but not to bake (despite the abundance of apples in her orchard). She particularly enjoys chopping up vegetables and by doing this prepare good food to feed the microbiome of her family members. When on holiday Annemarie enjoys long backpacking hikes discovering new locations and scenery.

More about Annemarie’s research on the microbiome, you can read in KO Magazine 2020.

As of 1 July NCOH scientific director Smart & Healthy Farming Dr. Annemarie Rebel is appointed as a Special Professor Healthy and Resilient Livestock at Wageningen University & Research.