One Health: LSU Vet School uses an integrative approach to help people, animals and the environment | Inspired by Louisiana
One Health may be a new term to many when applied to veterinary science, but the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine strives to put the idea at the forefront of its work.
One Health is the effort to integrate multiple disciplines working locally, nationally and globally to achieve optimal health in animal, environmental and human health.
Rebecca Christofferson, an associate professor in the veterinary school’s Department of Pathological Sciences since 2015, said that for many at the LSU veterinary school, the concept of One Health has been second nature for years, but naming the initiative to work to improvement has increased the effort to work locally, nationally and globally to achieve optimal health at all levels.
“That’s why when we’re solving a problem, we have to make sure the Rubik’s cube isn’t too disturbed,” Christofferson said.
The One Health approach is important because historically, using Christofferson’s metaphor, there have been instances of disruption of the Rubik’s cube.
Take, for example, cow dips – which were often used to treat and eradicate ticks on cattle in Louisiana and other southern states for much of the first half of the 1900s. holes in the ground and filling them with mud filled with arsenic and pesticides. The farmers then guided the cows through the sludge, which killed the ticks. The problem was that the arsenic sludge was left in the soil to potentially leach into the water table – an approach that helped cow health but left behind what became a long-term environmental hazard, resulting in caused problems for some humans.
With One Health, researchers like Christofferson have the opportunity to take a more comprehensive approach to addressing these kinds of issues. Even still, scientists are able to bring their personality into their approach to research.
On a personal level, Christofferson loves how her research for vet school contributes to the overall health of the community – the same way she loves incorporating little nods to her passion for jazz into her work. of veterinary science. In her work collecting mosquitoes, she sometimes makes special trips to Roselawn Memorial Park on North Street in Baton Rouge where legendary jazz pianist Bill Evans is buried. Christofferson is a huge Evans fan.
“A graveyard is a really good place to catch mosquitoes,” Christofferson said. “And since I love jazz and Bill Evans, we sometimes catch them on his grave. It’s just our way of including him in our work.”
Certainly, there is no possible link between jazz and mosquitoes. But in Christofferson’s world, the idea of integration and connection between the environment, humans and animals, even the mosquito, goes hand in hand.
Christofferson has been an Associate Professor in the Veterinary School’s Department of Pathological Sciences since 2015. His primary area of study is mosquitoes and the diseases they carry. She is assisted by graduate assistant Erik Turner.
Their individual area of study contributes to the overall One Health mission instituted by the school’s Dean, Oliver Garden.
He is the first to say that the idea of One Health is not new. It is common knowledge that a circle of life continually revolves between humans, animals and the environment. When one is hit, all are.
Although vet school has primarily focused on animals in the past, Garden looks at the school’s work from a different perspective.
“Clearly, diseases that threaten humans involve an animal as a host and vice versa,” Garden said. “We are related, and many of the diseases that our veterinary patients suffer from are very similar to those of human beings. And we in veterinary school do at least as much research on humans as we do on veterinary health, because we see them as inextricably linked.”
Garden added, One Health is a key concept that defines life, medicine and a healthy existence in the 21st century.
“At LSU Vet Med, we embrace One Health in everything we do, from teaching, healing, discovery and protection,” Garden said.
Garden calls these areas “missions”.
“These missions permeate everything we do,” he said. “And part of that is that we are able to do human testing, as well as animal testing, including surveillance for cross-border diseases such as classical swine fever, African swine fever and the disease of Newcastle. We also participate in the poultry health program, and we are the state diagnostic testing laboratory for rabies.”
Garden also highlights Christofferson’s work, pointing out that his study of pathogens, as well as how these pathogens are cultured in the environment, have a direct impact on human and animal health.
“For example, Dr. Christofferson, who works on emergency viruses and infectious diseases, worked on sarcoidosis and is now instrumental in articulating the university response to monkeypox,” he said. .
Of course, this has nothing to do with jazz. Not officially, anyway. But for Christofferson, Evans adds something personal to her own One Health mission when she places her mosquito traps next to her grave.
Water-filled trays provide fertile breeding ground for fertile females, which are the only mosquitoes that bite. Males and females that are not pregnant actually feed on pollen.
“Yes, they are pollinators,” Christofferson said. “Females only need protein from the blood when they are laying eggs.”
It’s a fact she shares when she brings the One Health mission to high schools and other areas of the community. She also teaches her audience how to tell the difference between male and female mosquitoes.
“The male mosquito has fuzzy antennae,” she said. “It’s just things they’re interested in, and we can use it to talk about other things we do.”
Christofferson and Turner enter their lab to check out a mosquito trap.
This particular trap, designed to capture adult mosquitoes, trapped two males and one female, which lack fuzzy antennae.
“Yeah, the males have the nicest antennae,” Christofferson said with a laugh. “We will trap others and bring them to the lab to study.”
And what are they looking for? Zoonotic viruses, which are viruses that infect both humans and animals.
“Most of my viruses are zoonotic,” she said. “So, for example, some of the viruses I’m working with right now are called bunya virus or ortho bunya virus, and they affect livestock as well as humans, and they’re transmitted by mosquitoes.”
Christofferson’s work focuses on the dengue virus, including variants such as Zika and West Nile, which cause fever, headache, vomiting, muscle and joint pain in people living primarily in tropical environments.
“In Louisiana, we have the environmental factor for mosquitoes carrying this virus, so we can study these mosquitoes and how the environment interacts with mosquitoes to transmit the virus,” Christofferson said.
Through it all, Christofferson is keeping tabs on how she can apply her findings to the One Health initiative.
Garden is determined to do more by spreading this message through community outreach.
“We are increasingly engaging with the community through outreach programs,” Garden said. “We provide key community services and basic veterinary needs, but in this we will also educate.”
Garden added that the school also schedules monthly community outreach programs in its library.
Garden said it was important to get the message of One Health through various means, such as the culmination of the recent artist-in-residence program. He added that the school incorporates a program for students to obtain bachelor’s and master’s degrees under the One Health program.
Ultimately, the One Health initiative is a reminder of the importance of looking at the big picture and connecting the dots, even if the dots include a love for jazz and mosquitoes.