When Dr. Lonnie King wants to eloquently communicate the current state of zoonotic disease on the planet, he enjoys reciting verse from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
|“Double double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”
The planet, like the witches’ cauldron, is a giant melting pot where once natural boundaries, like oceans and mountain ranges, no longer restrict the transport of people, animals and their diseases. The result is an ever-increasing risk of novel viruses being introduced into populations, both human and animal, that have little or no immunity to these new health threats.
“Several years ago in the United States, we had an unprecedented event when our country was invaded by West Nile virus, monkeypox and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome),” said Dr. King, Director of the National Center of Zoonotic, Vector-Borne and Enteric Diseases (NCZVED) at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. “These were three diseases that had never been seen before in the Western Hemisphere, and a testament to the interconnectivity of the world today – interdependence is a part of our lives.”
Dr. King was the keynote speaker at the Zoonotic Disease Colloquium held in Fort Collins Oct. 30 and 31. The colloquium was sponsored by Colorado State University and the CSU Research Foundation. Dr. Dick Bowen, a Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, was the Program Chair.
During his keynote address that focused on “The Convergence of Human and Animal Health,” Dr. King noted that human and animal populations face increasing risks of disease as populations increase, food animal agricultural enterprises increase production, and water-borne zoonosis and food-borne infections become more prevalent. A recent example is the outbreak of E. coli 0157 in 26 states from contaminated green leafy vegetables that sickened more than 200 Americans and caused at least three deaths.
“Many concerns now focus on the potential for an avian influenza pandemic that will cross from poultry into humans,” said Dr. King. “When determining the potential for a pandemic, we have to look at three factors. First, it must be a novel virus. Second, it must show transmission from animals to people. And, third, it must show transmission from person to person to person. Avian influenza has the first two factors, whether it will mutate to show transmission among humans remains to be seen, but we have to treat it as a potential threat.”
Dr. King said the scale and complexity of the zoonotic disease problem requires a new organizational model for team sciences including meta-leadership and dilemma-solving (multiple problems) over traditional single problem focuses.
Other priorities for NCZVED include:
“The need for One World, One Health, One Medicine is greater today than it ever has been in human history,” said Dr. King, “and the United States must take a leadership role.”