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Specialists in animal and human infectious diseases could meet more regularly

Tuesday 3 May 2016 4:38pm

Infectious diseases transferring from animals to humans . . . the burden and some potential causes.

The high level of interest in building links between human and animal health research sectors in New Zealand was so obvious during a recent infectious diseases symposium that it could become a regular event.

The OneHealth Aotearoa Symposium was held at the University of Otago, Wellington earlier this year, to provide scientists and policy makers with an opportunity to share new research on infectious diseases.

OneHealth Aotearoa believes animals are the main source of emerging infectious disease threats to human health, and that many of the tools and techniques needed to treat, prevent and control infectious diseases are equally applicable to human and veterinary medicine.

Organisers of the symposium were delighted it attracted 170 people from across New Zealand and several international guests, including researchers, policy makers and front-line practitioners working in human and veterinary public health.

Since the first OneHealth Aotearoa meeting 18 months ago, a severe Ebola epidemic has broken out in West Africa, antibiotic-resistant campylobacter has been discovered in chicken meat in New Zealand, and concern has spread around the globe about the Zika virus transmitted by infected mosquitoes.

One of the symposium organisers, Professor Michael Baker, from University of Otago, Wellington, says there is an increasing acceptance globally of the value of both human and animal health authorities and researchers working together to prevent and manage infectious disease threats, and the symposium was a further step in that direction.

Based on the positive response to the symposium, Otago and Massey Universities are considering making it a regular event.

Associate Professor Martyn Kirk
Associate Professor Martyn Kirk.

The symposium was jointly organised by Otago (Professor David Murdoch, Professor Michael Baker, and Dr Pippa Scott), Massey (Professor Nigel French and Dr David Wilkinson) and The Institute of Environmental Science and Research (Dr Debbie Williamson, who is now based at the Doherty Institute in Melbourne but retains a post at Otago).

Associate Professor Martyn Kirk from The Australian National University in Canberra, Australia gave a plenary lecture on the global burden of foodborne infection.

For more details about the event and copies of presentations, see University of Otago and Massey University.