IOF invests in the improvement of the interaction between human medicine and the veterinary field

(06-04-2020) One Health in action – Cross talk between veterinary medicine and public health

'Between animal and human medicine there is no dividing line – nor should there be. The object is different but the experience obtained constitutes the basis of all medicine.' Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902, founder of the medical field of cellular pathology and comparative pathology)
  • What is One Health?

The One Health concept consists of the notion that humans, animals and plants are interconnected and have a lot in common. Therefore, if one of these groups is faced with a health issue, knowledge from the other groups may be able to contribute to the answer for that issue.

  • What is the link between public health and veterinary medicine?

Many viruses in man have their origin in animals. By examining diseases in animals, researchers can better estimate their behaviour and risk of transmission towards humans. This research also facilitates the identification of new targets for treatment or prevention.

Veterinarians have proven time and again to be an asset in public health through their elaborate training on infectious diseases and experience with infectious disease epidemics (such as rabies, bird flu, swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease).

Therefore, it’s not surprising that veterinarians play an important part in the current corona crisis, with Steven Van Gucht as the president of the Scientific Committee Coronavirus and Piet Vantemsche as head of the economic task force.

  • How do UGent veterinary researchers contribute to solutions?

The in-depth expertise on respiratory (corona)viruses in pigs as model for man and the recently unveiled sensitivity of ferrets to SARS-CoV-2 offer the opportunity to learn more from these animal models about the infection mechanism of the virus. In turn, this knowledge could i) lead to the identification of conserved targets in multiple species of the same virus family and ii) speed up the development of prophylactic and therapeutic solutions for humans and animals.  

Moreover, several innovative technologies for vaccination that have been developed at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine for veterinary vaccines can be tested in preclinical phase for the development of new SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.

  • What are future challenges?

The lack of financing for (veterinary) experimental research poses an important issue. To be able to respond swiftly to pandemics such as COVID-19 years of proactive research are necessary. The corona crisis itself was predicted in 2007 by Cheng et al. in Clin. Microbiol. Reviews. The group mentioned the threat emanating from SARS-CoV-like viruses through the close contact between animals and humans.

  • What is the UGent One Health platform?

The One Health platform aims to circulate technology and expertise from human medicine to the veterinary field and vice versa. Therefore, it maps the expertise and technologies present at Ghent University for the following disciplines: veterinary and human health, plant biotechnology, bio-engineering (sensors, medical devices), big data and artificial intelligence. 

Furthermore, the One Health platform unites researchers with expertise and technologies that can be the basis of new health applications. The interdisciplinary exchange of knowledge and insights will speed up discoveries and applications for multiple species and for a variety of health aspects.


On October 14, the One Health platform officially kicks off!

Participate in this networking event via Researchers from the association UGent with an interest in research on health applications are more than welcome!


If you want more information on the One Health Platform, you can contact