One Health research at SLU

Last changed: 28 June 2021
Dark hands are holding a yellow chicken, photo.

One Health research focus on the interaction between animal-, human- and ecosystem health. SLU produces knowledge to limit the spread of disease and antimicrobial resistance while securing sustainable food systems and use of natural resources. This interdisciplinary approach to the concept of health is called One Health.

One Health is an interdisciplinary research area and research within One Health is conducted at the SLU’s faculties: Landscape Architecture, Garden and Plant Production Science, Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, Forest Science, Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science. Here we present a selection of SLU’s wide range of activities within the field of One Health.

Umbrella with rings where different subject areas are written. Illustration.

One Health research at SLU can be divided into ten categories.

Read more about different research areas under the menus below.

Food production

Safe food is an important aspect of this field where SLU have extensive knowledge on how food-borne infectious agents are spread.

Modern food production is a complex process, it is essential that sustainable and climate friendly cultivation and production systems are developed. This will enable us to produce safe food for humans and feed for animals while ensuring that the production of milk and meat is based on sustainable use of resources. Good animal health is a prerequisite for long-term sustainable animal husbandry. Healthy animals yield higher profits and don’t need medicines such as antibiotics.

It is also important to use environmentally-friendly alternatives for combatting plant diseases in order to ensure sustainable food production in the future.

Infections

SLU has extensive experience in monitoring and conducting research on several central wildlife populations and their zoonoses. This creates excellent conditions
for increasing our knowledge on how climate and landscape change affects the transmission and outbreaks of zoonoses.
– Associate Professor Frauke Ecke

SLU can contribute with valuable knowledge on how infectious diseases affect animals and humans. Some infectious agents are also zoonoses, i.e. diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans. Outbreaks of infectious diseases cause suffering for animals and can also lead to major economic losses because of reduced production.

Production loss is a threat to global food supplies, particularly in those parts of the world where there is a lack of high-quality animal protein.

Antimicrobial Resistance

One of the biggest threats in the future is loss of effectiveness among medicines against infectious diseases. SLU plays an important role in the development of sustainable systems for good animal health and profitable animal production alongside a restrictive use of antimicrobial drugs. Antibiotic resistance is a threat to both animal and human health because bacterial infections are becoming increasingly difficult to treat.

We are striving to detect new anti-microbial substances in microorganisms that could be developed into new antibiotics.
– Professor Anders Broberg

Some of the projects conducted by researchers at SLU aim to find new future antibiotics in fungal and bacterial cultures and develop antibacterial fabrics and coatings to promote the healing of wounds. Just like bacteria, parasites have also developed resistance to medicines, which is also problematic for animal health.

In addition, SLU is conducting a number of research and development projects to produce vaccines to prevent and counteract different infectious diseases.

 

Ecosystems, environmental indicators

Securing the supply of water now and for future generations is one of society’s greatest challenges and in order to succeed, we need to take a holistic approach that integrates knowledge from environmental research, veterinary medicine and infection biology.
- Professor Stefan Bertilsson

It is important to find safe alternative sources of protein, for example insects, in order to secure the production of food and animal feed in the future. It is also important to find ways of developing sustainable cycles, for example, the biodegradation of waste, to reduce levels of pathogenic microorganisms and pharmaceutical residues.

We need to take a holistic approach to the sustainable use of natural resources, humans as consumers and entrepreneurs, and sustainable food consumption. It is important to know how to increase the use of plant nutrients and reduce leakage in cultivation systems as well as animal husbandry.

We also need strategies to preserve and restore biological diversity in areas that are dominated by human activity. To a large extent, pets share the same indoor environment as humans which means they can be used as environmental indicators to study the effects of chemicals. For example, cats have been used as an environmental indicator for exposure to chemicals in indoor dust and for the occurrence of endocrine disrupting effects on the thyroid.

Climate Change

Climate change is having a significant impact on human and animal health and implies an acute global health problem. At SLU researchers are working on various projects to find sustainable solutions to reduce emissions of mmonia and greenhouse gases from livestock housing. This includes projects investigating whether emissions of methane from dairy cows can be reduced by substituting some of the concentrate feed with oats.

Climate change and warmer water may drastically change the size, structure and dynamics of fish populations, possibly increasing the number of fish in some populations but reducing numbers in others. This could be crucial for understanding the limits for how much fishing a certain population can withstand.

Translational and Comparative Medicine

Translational research can be described as when a problem that has been identified clinically, for example, diabetes, is used as the basis for pre-clinical research and development in veterinary medicine in order to better understand and treat or prevent disease in both humans and animals.

Researchers at SLU use animals as a model for humans in order to understand diseases such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, osteoarthritis, diabetes and cancer. Pets such as dogs or cats are good models since they live in the same environment as their owners and are exposed to the same lifestyle.

The clinical knowledge we gain when dogs and cats come for cancer treatment could also improve life for humans.
– Professor Henrik Rönnberg

The interaction between microbiota and gastrointestinal health is another subject in translational medicine. Here, the aim is to identify useful microbes and microbe-coded functions in the bowel in order to improve the gastrointestinal health of animals.

The impact of animals for humans

The interaction between humans and animals is positive for the welfare and wellbeing of both parties. International research has shown that both pets and livestock have a positive effect on health and can reduce healthcare costs. Pets and livestock are used in different ways and for different purposes for both leisure activities and animal-supported care measures.

Having a relationship with a pet is a positive factor for human mental and physical welfare. Another aspect is the positive impact of animals on human physical health through exercise and being outdoors. Some examples of the significance of animals in care and social therapy are cats at eldercare facilities that in-crease the wellbeing of the elderly, horses that function as a form of social support for autistic children, and specially trained dogs that have a positive effect on children’s learning to read. These animal-supported measures are all known to have a positive impact on human mental wellbeing.

Social therapy dogs of different kinds are an asset for the whole of society but the dogs’ welfare must be taken into account. If animals are subjected to stress and pain through careless handling by humans, the production and reproduction as well as the animals’ susceptibility to infection can be affected.

Page editor: futureonehealth@slu.se