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In this interview, News-Medical speaks to Professor Roberto La Ragione, Chair of Trustees at Humanimal Trust, about the concept of One Medicine and how human and veterinary medicine can collaborate, share knowledge, and initiate research for the benefit of both humans and animals. 

Please can you introduce yourself, tell us about your professional background, and your role at Humanimal Trust?

I am Professor Roberto La Ragione, Chair of Trustees at Humanimal Trust.

I graduated in 1995 and then studied for a postgraduate degree in veterinary microbiology at the Royal Veterinary College (University of London). In 1996, I moved to the government’s Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) to undertake a Ph.D. on the pathogenesis of E. coli in poultry. Upon completing my Ph.D. studies, I commenced a post-doctoral position at Royal Holloway, University of London, studying E. coli virulence factors and vaccine development.

Since 2001, my work has focused largely on understanding the pathogenesis of zoonotic bacterial pathogens to develop control strategies. I have led several commercial, Defra, research councils (BBSRC, MRC, EPSRC, AHRC, Innovate) and EU projects in this area.

My current research interests focus on the pathogenesis of food-borne pathogens with a particular interest in Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and the development of intervention strategies, including vaccines, rapid diagnostic, pre, and probiotics. I have published over 190 papers in the area of host-microbe interaction, with a particular emphasis on E. coli, Salmonella, vaccines, probiotics, and AMR.

In 2005, I was appointed Head of Pathogenesis and Control at the AHVLA, and in 2010, I was appointed Professor of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology at the University of Surrey. I gained the FRCPath in 2010, and in 2012, I was appointed the Associate Dean for Veterinary Strategy in the new School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Surrey. In 2014, I was appointed to the position of Head of the Department of Pathology and Infectious Diseases and Director of the Veterinary Pathology Centre. In 2019 I was appointed Deputy Head of the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Surrey, and then in 2021, I was appointed Head of the School of Biosciences and Medicine.

I am the past president of the Med-Vet-Net Association and the Veterinary Research Club, the current Chair of Humanimal Trust, a member of the FSA ACMSF AMR sub-committee, a Trustee of the Houghton Trust, a member of the APHA Science Advisory Board and Chair of the Royal College of Pathologists Veterinary Pathology SAC. I am an Associate member of the European College of Veterinary Microbiology, and in 2020, I was awarded an Honorary Associateship of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

 

Humanimal Trust advocates for One Medicine. What is One Medicine, when did this concept originate, and how has the understanding of it evolved in recent years?

The origins of One Medicine date back to the nineteenth century when Rudolf Virchow linked human and animal health. Sir William Osler, Dr. Calvin Schwabe, Lord Lawson Soulsby, and others have since continued to expand the One Medicine concept, identifying the connections, commonalities, and synergies between human and veterinary medicine.

It was whilst studying the history of medicine that Professor Fitzpatrick came upon a term used to describe human and veterinary medicine working with one another: One Medicine. The third edition of Dr. Calvin Schwabe’s seminal publication in 1984 of ‘Veterinary Medicine and Human Health’ which spoke of One Medicine, laid the foundation for what we now know as One Health, but in considering this text, Fitzpatrick identified a need to move away from a public health agenda to a common health agenda focusing on infectious and non-infectious diseases.

Moreover, when reviewing the three Rs (refinement, reduction, and replacement) in relation to animal use in research, it became clear that a fourth R was missing from the 3Rs principle – the principle of reciprocity so that not only do medical practitioners and allied researchers benefit, but also patients, regardless of their species.

By considering the contribution that animals can make to research by studying their lives and their responses to naturally occurring, spontaneous diseases rather than using experimental animal models in research, the use of animals in research can be significantly reduced.

 

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