The One Health Consortium was launched by the Department of Biotechnology on 14 October 2021. It was launched by Dr. Renu Swarup, who is the secretary of the Department of Biotechnology. One Health Consortium undertakes the surveillance of significant viral, bacterial and parasitic infections of zoonotic and transboundary pathogens in India.
Rudolf Virchow, the father of modern pathology, emphasized no division between animal and human medicine in 1856. The consortium was launched in the background of the Covid-19 pandemic, which revealed the importance of the ‘One Health’which is a principle in the governance of infectious diseases. One Health principle is important to prevent and contain diseases in the zoonotic category across the world. Thus, this holistic approach will be taken to understand the health of humans, animals, and wildlife to minimize the damage caused by pandemics like Covid-19.
One Health Principle
The One Health principle focuses on the interconnection between the health of human beings, animals, and the environment. It takes a multilateral approach to address the existing and potential risks that arise from the interaction between humans, animals, and the ecosystem.
One Health vision derives its plan from the alliance between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). This global initiative is also supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Bank with the goal “‘One World, One Health.”
The main purpose of One Health Vision is to encourage research and have collaborative efforts across various disciplines like human health, veterinary health, environmental and ecosystem health that can improve, protect and defend the health of all species. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) introduced the term “One World-One Health” in 2007 along with 12 recommendations called the Manhattan Principles that focus on establishing a holistic approach to prevent epidemic diseases and maintain the integrity of the ecosystem.
Need for One Health Approach
Scientists have identified that around 1.7 million viruses are found in wildlife, and most of them belong to the zoonotic category. So without timely detection, a large number of pandemics can spread around the world. Anthroponotic diseases are transmitted from humans to animals. The impact of viral outbreaks like the Nipah virus, Ebola, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Avian Influenza has further reinforced the need to consistently document the connection between the environment, animals, and human health.
India established a National Standing Committee on Zoonoses in the 1980s. Further, the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD) has launched several schemes to reduce the spread of animal diseases. Additionally, the government is renovating programs that focus on capacity building for veterinarians and enhancing the animal health diagnostic system, such as Assistance to States for Control of Animal Diseases (ASCAD).
One Health Consortium
One Health Consortium is one of the most extensive ‘one health’ programs launched by the Government of India in post-COVID times. The mission carries out the surveillance of viruses that belong to zoonotic categories and transboundary pathogens in India. They also plan to use existing diagnostic tests and develop more advanced methods for surveillance and research on the spread of new diseases. The consortium consists of 27 organizations under the leadership of the DBT- National Institute of Animal Biotechnology, Hyderabad. It includes AIIMS Delhi, AIIMS Jodhpur, MAFSU Nagpur, IVRI Bareilly, TANUVAS Chennai, GADVASU Ludhiana, Assam agricultural & veterinary university, ICAR, and ICMR centers & wildlife agencies.
Need for One Health Consortium
The need for the ‘One Health’ Consortium has increased over the years. The risk of the infectious agents capable of breaking the barriers of species has increased. These diseases also have severe impacts on humans, animals, health systems, and economies, which require years of social and economic recovery. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the importance of ‘One Health’ principles in maintaining infectious diseases, especially the efforts to prevent and contain zoonotic diseases throughout the world. It emphasizes a holistic approach to understanding the health of humans, wildlife, and animals to reduce the damage caused due to future pandemics.
One Health will help develop practice guidelines for informal market and slaughterhouse operations like inspections, disease prevalence assessments and create mechanisms that will help ‘One Health’ operate at every stage down to the village level. Therefore, the One Health Consortium requires the cooperation and active engagement of individuals, communities, and society. Further, there is a need to have common objectives in different sectors; this will promote innovation, adaptation, and flexibility in political, financial, and administrative accountability.