Saturday, October 16, 2010

Goodbye rinderpest

The UN announced this week that the rinderpest virus has been eradicated. Rinderpest kills — oh wait, killed — cattle in Asia and Africa. I learned about it in microbiology during second year.

This is a really good example of One Health in action. Eradicating rinderpest was a huge undertaking. Complete eradication of a virus has only happened once before, with smallpox. So did we take this on just out of sympathy for sick cattle? No, this effort was prioritized because of the humans whose livelihoods (and dinners) depended on their livestock. To have healthy humans, you need healthy animals. That’s the essence of One Health — veterinarians and human doctors working together.

I would like to point out how heavily veterinarians were involved in this process. They helped identify the disease, develop a vaccine, test the vaccine, and they certainly were out there getting their hands dirty making sure the vaccine was in use (getting it to the people who needed it and educating those people about why they needed it).

[ETA: See a really interesting history of the development of the rinderpest vaccine at Speaking of Research (as noted in the comments on this post).]

1 comment:

  1. Great point about the One Health initiative, the eradication of Rinderpest is an excellent example of the interplay between advances in human and veterinary medicine.

    From the early efforts of Koch, Theiler, and Watkins-Pitchford, to the breakthroughs of Edwards, Plowright and Ferris, the development of a vaccine for Rinderpest depended on scientists and veterinarians working together. I've discussed this work briefly at:

    Of course an effective vaccine was only the beginning, monitoring herds and administering the vaccine to domesticated and wild animals to prevent, and ultimately eradicate, Rinderpest required the dedicated effoerts of thousands of veterinarians and farmers.

    Lets hope that within the next decade we will see a similar announcement about Polio!