The control of neglected zoonotic diseases

WHO defines zoonoses as diseases and infections that are naturally transmitted between vertebrate animals and humans. A zoonotic agent may be a bacterium, a virus, a fungus or other communicable disease agent. At least 61% of all human pathogens are zoonotic, and have represented 75% of all emerging pathogens during the past decade. Except for the newly emerging zoonoses such as SARS and highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1, the vast majority are not prioritized by health systems at national and international levels and are therefore labelled as neglected.

Interventions to control zoonoses require concerted action between the veterinary and the human health sectors, because they affect both people and animals. WHO has long taken the lead in bringing together international and national organizations to deal with the problems posed by both emerging and endemic zoonoses. Although much publicity has been accorded to the emerging zoonotic diseases, it is the endemic, and occasionally epidemic zoonoses, which year in, year out affect poor livestock keepers in marginalized communities.

Many zoonotic diseases impact significantly on human health as well as livestock productivity, thus undermining livelihoods both by causing illness in the household and threatening its livestock and their output. WHO and other international agencies hence saw the need in strengthening multidisciplinary, intersectoral and cross cultural efforts by health, agriculture, environment and other sectors of society at the national and international level.

A route to poverty alleviation
first meeting

A first meeting was organized jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Animal Health Programme of the UK Department for International Development (DFID-AHP), on 20 and 21 September 2005, which showed the dual benefits to be gained by both the animal and human health sectors by investing in the integrated and coordinated control of these diseases.

The meeting saw how, with more effective measures, there is a chance to simultaneously save lives and secure livelihoods. Effective control of zoonotic diseases would mean a decreased disease burden, poverty reduction and increased food supply for large numbers of the rural poor worldwide, thereby contributing towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

The report on the first meeting on 20 and 21 September 2005 can be downloaded here.

Integrated Control of Neglected Zoonoses in Africa
second meeting

Control of neglected zoonoses meeting in Nairobi, 2007, group picture

A second meeting on Neglected Zoonotic Diseases (NZD2) was held in Kenya 13-15 November 2007 aimed at formulating a specific implementation plan for the prevention and control of theses diseases in Africa. The meeting comprised a total of more than 80 participants. 60 of them originated from 14 African (central, northern, southern and western) countries and regional and sub-regional organizations from Africa (e.g. AU-IBAR, AMREF, COMESA, EAC). In addition the meeting benefited from the presence of 20 international zoonoses experts, representatives of international partner organizations and development agencies (e.g. DANIDA).

The Nairobi Consultation, which tackled some of the practical, institutional, political and resources related issues associated with the Initiative for the Control of Neglected Zoonoses, was satisfied with the progress achieved since the first meeting held at WHO, Geneva in 2005. The enthusiasm of the scientifc community for the subject has been maintained and in addition to the commitment of technical agencies, funding bodies are supporting further development of the concept (e.g. the EU Research Directorate, the Welcome trust).

Soon the report of this successful meeting will be made available online. Until then the following information can be downloaded: