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NCOH Annual Scientific Meeting: ‘The Future starts today’

The One Health concept requires direct action. That is what the different experts at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Netherlands Centre for One Health (NCOH) in Wageningen agreed upon. Which action should be taken, depends on the perspective and field of expertise. “Our future starts today, with every step we take”, said Tim van Hattum (WUR).

A healthy society for future generations needs to look at developments in a broad perspective and take into account interactions between the different groups in the population. This is true when looking at (global) health issues as well as when combating the climate problem. “Even these two themes are intertwined”, says Tim van Hattum, programme lead Green Climate Solutions at Wageningen University & Research.

New map

Together with his team Van Hattum drew a new map for the Netherlands, presenting the country as it should be ideally shaped in 2120. The map is based on the best possible use of the landscape in such a way that it nature is part of the everyday life. “We need to start working with nature”, according to Van Hattum.

According to the programme leader it’s important to create a long term perspective for the Netherlands (as well as for the world). “By giving this long term perspective on the future food system, we can create a world that can produce food with its natural boundaries.” According to Van Hattum this new outline of the country will deliver a huge health benefit for society. “Our next step would be to quantify the potential health benefits as this will create the opportunity to set things in motion, faster than we have done thus far.”

Opportunity and threat

Science journalist and ecomodernist Hidde Boersma agrees with Van Hattum on his idea of grouping activities in society and do the things in the right place suited for its purpose. “What we need is a global approach, for example an IPCC for land use”, suggest Boersma.

Separating the function nature and food production, creates opportunities for more interaction between humans and nature. This can be beneficial for general human wellbeing and health. “However, there is a potential danger”, warns Simon Oosting, professor Animal Production Systems at Wageningen University. “A nature based society creates a risk of more contact with animals, both in wild life as well as livestock, and thus make zoonotic diseases more likely to occur.”

 

Pandemic

Recent examples, such as SARS and Covid-19, have emphasized the vulnerable relation between human and animal when it comes to spreading disease. Both derived from animal sources and formed a threat to human health worldwide.

A more recent example is Monkeypox. This disease originates from rodents, but has recently infected humans in Europe. “At the moment it seems that contact between homosexual men is the main spreading mechanism. However, we know from import and export data that the worldwide transport of companion animals is also a potential source of spreading the disease”, explains virologist Marion Koopmans of Erasmus MC. “Irregulated trade and human travelling are important to take into account when combatting diseases such as Monkeypox.”

Looking at Covid-19, Koopmans doesn’t think the disease can really be stopped. Virologist Wim van der Poel of Wageningen Bioveterinary Research agrees with her. “The best scenario for Covid-19 is when the virus looses its virulence and keeps circulating, like a normal flu.”

Connect

According to Marleen Bekker, Health and Society professor at Wageningen University, it is important to realize that when combating a disease the information on the actions that need to be taken, reaches all groups in society. She emphasized the importance of involving the local governmental bodies and organizations. “Try and put the decision making as close to civilians as possible. If you loose touch with what’s going on in society, you can’t battle a pandemic”, Bekker stated.

Danilo Lo Fo Wong, programme manager control of antimicrobial resistance at the World Health Organization, agrees with her. “Decisions are generally made by other people than those affected by it. Behavioral science is an important base for any action plan to combat diseases.” Anja Schreijer, director of the Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness Centre, emphasizes health solutions need to be tailored and targeted. “One Health fits all, but one size does not.”

Prepared

Van der Poel is of the opinion that we are better prepared than ever for a potential next pandemic. “But we can do better, by doing more research, planning ahead and acting quicker. However, even if we prepare ourselves, viruses don’t sit still. They have their own dynamics and might therefor outsmart us despite all our action toward being prepared.”

Further at the Annual Scientific Meeting

Host Annemarie Rebel of Wageningen University & Research looks back a successful event: ‘It is great to see so many people in our network in person again after two years of mostly online meetings. We had a wonderful day! Dick Heederik, chair of NCOH, talked us through the plans for the coming 5 years, with focus on pandemic preparedness.

PhD contributions

Nine pitches from PhD’s from different institutes battled for the NCOH Best Pitch award. Pitch winner Auke de Jong (Westerdijk institute, KNAW) took us on a journey through his research on the mystery of multidrug resistant Candida auris.

Michèle Molendijk from ErasmusMC won the NCOH Best Poster award, with her poster entitled: ‘The efficacy of bacteriophages against clinical Staphylococcus aureus strains under physiological relevant conditions’.

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