Republic of Poland

One world, one health. WUELS discusses pharmacology and toxicology

22 June, 2018

Human health cannot be separated from animal and plant health, as well as the condition of the environment we live in. For most naturalists this is obvious, many people, however, find it difficult to put the idea into practice.

Despite evidence of disastrous effects caused by ecosystem destruction we still cut down forests, exhaust soils, provoke mutations of bacteria and viruses by overusing medicines… and the list goes on. Disturbed ecosystems develop pathogens – bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites capable of interspecies migration. Human organism is not always prepared for their impact and neither are the health care systems. Ebola virus disease, AIDS, SARS, swine or avian flu, ASF, BSE… According to William Karesh of Wildlife Conservation Society, approximately every year and a half a new contagious disease is described which is life-threatening to people. Apparently, it is the term “One health”, used by this outstanding veterinarian, which gave the name to a new approach of WHO to designing and implementing programs and policies concerning public health.

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“Divisions between human health and the health of farm and wild animals are completely artificial. There is only one world and one health” – says Karesh.

The “One health” approach of WHO means calling all services to cooperate in solving key problems of public health. Food safety, controlling diseases which can spread among animals and people (such as flu, rabies or Rift Valley fever, to name just a few), tackling antibiotic resistance – these are now common goals pursued by WHO, FAO and OIE. However, for the “One health” concept to bear fruit, it must be spread to different (state and local) levels of everyday work done by officials, scientists, breeders, doctors, pharmacists, lab assistants etc.

It is thus a good sign, that “One health” is a tagline for the International Congress of the European Association for Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology. Professor Marcin Świtała and doctor Błażej Poźniak PhD from the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology of The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine take part in the organization of the Congress during which 300 hundred vets from 40 countries debate, among other things, how to deal with drug-resistance. If one is to be serious about stopping the “immunization” of dangerous microorganisms to medicines, there has to be a change in the attitude of both patients and doctors towards the use of antibiotics.

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Research on medicine kinetics is one of the areas of activity for the scientists from the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology of WUELS. Among other things, they work on methods of precise application of antibiotics and chemotherapeutic agents which could limit their overall use. Professor Świtała points to one of the aspects of this complex problem: - Painstaking research has allowed us to determine norms concerning levels of pharmaceuticals and their withdrawal time in cells and tissues – this knowledge is, of course, used by medics but which doctor takes into account, for example, that perhaps a patient should not eat meat during therapy if, during breeding, the animals had been given the substances same as those in the drugs or even different but reacting with a given medicine? Giving antibiotics to animals is so questionable because pathogen drug-resistance resulting from it is growing and has significant impact on people. – For example, lung illnesses which were still effectively treated a few years ago, may now be fatal as there are no medicines for them – this is how Professor Świtała explains what drug-resistance means in everyday life.

Stopping dangerous overuse of medicines, particularly antibiotics which we also take in from consumed meat, requires great educational effort.

Świtała cites Denmark as a positive example – it was once a leader of antibiotic use in animal farming and is now a model of responsible medicine use – this change was heavily influenced by the breeders and their awareness. And this awareness is, in turn, influenced by the consumers. Consumer behaviour, however, depend on both knowledge and wealth. Prof. Świtała again explains where the problem lies: - New drugs have been introduced which can increase the immunity of animals to some illnesses and limit antibiotic therapy. However, producer’s risk is higher when using new methods than with traditional antibiotic treatment. As a result, a kilogram of pork produced without antibiotics costs e.g. 12 PLN as opposed to 5 PLN when they are being used.

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A search for natural or synthetic substances which influence the immune system cells is another field of research at the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology headed by Professor Bożena Obmińska-Mrukowicz. Three percent of world population suffer from immunological conditions and medicine still does not know effective cures for them. The Department researches promising substances on animal cells and seeks effective medicines for cancers which both people and animals suffer from. Human and animal health cannot be separated since they form the same ecosystem – “There’s on world and one health”.