On the frontline of shifting diseases
I hope you all had a good summer. It’s been quite wet, here in New Jersey, more than normal, and that had me thinking about how environmental changes lead to diseases shifting from their “normal” geographies. Whatever you think the reasons are behind this, there is no question that exotic diseases are posing more and more of a threat. Of course, the latest to watch is African swine fever (ASF), and the move of the disease into China is a major concern. We also need to watch for the development of Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), also known as sheep and goat plague, a disease that disproportionately impacts the poorest farmers and farming operations, especially as it has now been found in Europe for the first time after a report of a case in Bulgaria. While Lumpy skin disease (LSD) seems to have settled a bit, mainly following a concerted and effective vaccination campaign, we cannot afford to relax; vigilance and surveillance is essential to ensure we don’t get caught by surprise.
Tackling problems in Africa and Asia
The paper “Waves of endemic foot-and-mouth disease in eastern Africa suggest feasibility of proactive vaccination approaches” has just been published. I am very pleased that we managed to play a small role in this, especially when I look at the other authors of the paper. It is a roll call of leading names in this field. Special thanks go to Tiziana Lembo for her idea followed by her persistance in pulling the publication together. Africa is often overlooked, but MSD Animal Health has been pleased to help fund the ongoing FMD research project in Tanzania for the last few years. This, and our engagement with GALVmed, is critical for finding innovative methods to tackle disease in the African continent. You can view the paper here. The fact that it challenges some norms in how we consider the disease and its spread is particularly important for thinking about vaccination efforts.
Speaking of GALVmed, we have just had a productive board meeting in North Berwick. It is really exciting to work across boundaries and with other companies, as we look at how we can improve the lives of smallholders in Africa and Asia. The announcement of the appointment of Dr. Carolin Schumacher as the new Chief Executive Officer of GALVmed is another major step forward, growing on the fantastic work of Peter Jeffries. GALVmed is about empowering smallholders so they can change their lives for the better; the work of GALVmed has had a significant impact already, and continued engagement with local communities will bring further improvements and understanding.
Our mission in the world of transboundary and emerging diseases
I thought it would be interesting to generate a Word Cloud (thank you, WordClouds.com) based on our “leavepiece” that describes our aims. It’s probably no surprise that “rabies”, “FMD”, and “disease” have the most emphasis. But I think it really does capture our team philosophy with words such as “innovation”, “health”, “collaborating”, and “support”.
Thank you to those of you who engage with us on Twitter. I see it as a good route for giving quick and timely updates on disease outbreaks and I try to keep @eMergence_MAH for these alerts. But Twitter is also a great way for us to build a supportive community, allowing us to share our thoughts as well as discuss campaigns, conferences, new articles etc. There is a lot we can learn from each other and, while it isn’t possible to be at every conference, there are wonderful tools that allow us to develop global networks. One Health One Welfare remains my passion, and I know the rest of my team feel the same.