A group of us wrote a Letter to the Editor of Lancet in response to a recent One Health paper. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t published, but  we think it’s an important message, so here it is:

A Call to Action for a One Health approach in COVID-19 and Beyond

While we echo Amuasi and colleagues’ call for a One Health COVID-19 Research Coalition1, we urge the scientific community to genuinely embrace a cross-disciplinary approach. Oblivion to One Health principles has characterized the response to the evolving pandemic. Once human-to-human transmission emerged as the cause of the pandemic, broader One Health aspects were ignored. The initial assessment put forth by some high-profile agencies was antithetical to the concept of One Health2, focusing on “no evidence” of the potential for SARS-CoV-2 transmission to animals or of risk of further interspecies spread, despite a lack of investigation. While subsequent research forced a change in message, dismissing involvement of animals in zoonotic diseases, until such is proven, is detrimental on all fronts. Almost all recent infectious disease outbreaks have been of zoonotic origin, and a logical, proactive approach to identify and address all ramifications is essential. Additionally, human-induced environmental drivers of infectious disease emergence are fundamental triggers of zoonoses. Although environmental changes such as habitat destruction, urbanization and agricultural intensification were highlighted as ongoing factors driving zoonotic disease emergence, efforts to improve ecosystem health and resiliency continue to be absent from broader discussions in the current response and future pandemic prevention.3

It is essential that One Health concepts, not simply discussions, are integrated into political, environmental and social actions. A One Health approach built on strong cross-disciplinary collaborations must be the default approach to prevention and control of emerging diseases, rather than an afterthought that is reserved until there is definitive proof of need.


Scott Weese, Dorothee Bienzle, Katie M. Clow, Heather M. Murphy, and Kari E. Dunfield

Departments of Pathobiology (JSW, DB) and Population Medicine (KMC), Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada

School of Environmental Sciences (KED), Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON, Canada

College of Public Health (HMM), Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA

  1. Amuasi JH, Walzer C, Heymann D, et al. Calling for a COVID-19 One Health Research Coalition. Lancet 2020; 395: 1543
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Covid 19 and Animals [Internet]. Atlanta, GA: Centres for Disease Control and Prevention; 2020 [updated 2020 April 30; cited 2020 May 17]. Available from: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/animals.html.
  3. Allen T, Murray KA, Zambrana-Torellio C, et al. Global hotspots and correlates of emerging zoonotic diseases. Nat Commun 2017; 8: 1124.