ICBAS - Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar

'One Health' Awareness Month

January was the 'One Health' awareness month and so, we considered this an excellent opportunity to invite Professors Carlos Vasconcelos, Luísa Valente and Adriano Bordalo e Sá, members of the ICBAS 'One Health' steering group. writing their vision on the various perspectives of the concept, applied to the reality of human and animal medicine and the health of the environment.

‘One Health from a medical perspective – Human health’

Yes, we all know, when we stop to think about it, that we are not alone on the planet. But on a day-to-day basis we act as if we were. Unless… “things” impose themselves, as is the case with the COVID-19 pandemic. A microbe, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, leaves its realm and, faster than Genghis Khan, puts old and highly civilized Europe, the entire western world, indeed, everyone, paralyzed in the economy (then and the bankers so important?!), in education (virtual reality helped us…) and in tourism (so many planes stopped, so many people without work…). In short, it messed with our whole lives, the big and the small things, the small and the powerful.

How was it possible? The answer is just one, clear and obvious (how can we be so stupid?!): in our EARTH everything is interconnected, the biggest animal with the smallest microbe, the trees, the wind and the sun, me, you, the black from Africa, yellow from China, red from America, the smartest and the most uncultured, the beautiful princess and the monster, the rich and the poor, we are all connected.

Whatever each one does, the interconnected network will know, feel, adapt, e pur si muove…

We treat the world as if we were absolute owners. And, at least for now, we know we shouldn't.

This time for change is urgent. All of us, each one of us, will not be able to doubt his responsibility in this struggle for the continuation of life on Earth.

In human health, there are many attitudes that must suffer the wind of change, starting with seeing around us – not just looking! –  and recognize others, living beings and the environment. And changing practices, such as the inappropriate use of antibiotics in the community and also in the hospital, generating more resistant microbial strains and stimulating, in a vicious cycle, investment in research and financial resources, which could be directed towards more useful goals for human health .

The One Health concept raises the need for articulation between all those who can contribute to improve and, even more, prevent global health. Among health professionals, especially doctors, in the community and in hospitals, they cannot limit themselves to treating “the disease”. They have to see the patient as a whole, in which environment he lives, what he eats, what exercise he does, how he integrates into the family and society. It is necessary to understand the causes that led to the disease: was it related to food, to the water he drinks or drank, to the animals he comes into contact with, to the environment in which he develops his work, or to that trip to the ends of the world he dreamed of so much?

As a doctor for 45 years, I am in a privileged position to say: we cannot continue like this my dear colleagues! We have to be more global, more integrative and always try to understand what may be behind the disease that we diagnose and treat so well. That's not enough. For the sake of One Health, we must think and act more deeply and, above all, be interconnected with all the other actors in the HEALTH dimension. Only then will we have tomorrow for our descendants.

Carlos Vasconcelos, Specialist in Internal Medicine and Guest Full Professor at ICBAS

Promoting animal and human health

Animal health has acquired an unparalleled importance. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the interconnection between human health, animal health, the environment and food safety was well evidenced.

More forgotten, however, is another daily struggle, albeit much more silent: antibiotic resistance. This is a challenge of the utmost importance to achieve the goals listed in the European Action Plan for “One Health” and in the from Farm to Fork Strategy, which led, from the beginning of this year, to the application of new rules to promote the animal health and combating antimicrobial resistance.

Limiting the use of antibiotics to situations of extreme need is a priority, and the European Union has set a target of halving it by 2030. This commitment has already started in animal production, including aquaculture, where the selection of more robust strains, as well as the adoption of better cultivation practices, including vaccination, better hygiene and adaptation of environmental conditions to the production of each species, are already a current practice. Effective strategies for disease prevention have also been developed, through the new concept of precision nutrition, where diets are rigorously and personalized to meet the nutritional requirements of each animal.

Currently, cutting-edge technologies are used (sensors, information technologies, artificial intelligence) capable of monitoring in real time the physiological state of the animal, allowing the integration of a large volume of data and converting them into fast and assertive decision-making that anticipate scenarios. The result of these good practices translates into increased production efficiency and animal welfare, minimizing the impact on the environment. On the other hand, the total control of the value chain of the agri-food sector makes it possible to guarantee the traceability of products and the food safety of the consumer.

Animal production has increasingly focused on the use of sustainable and functional diets with two objectives. On the one hand, the inclusion of supplements that offer benefits to the animal's health, which allows it to increase its resistance to challenging environmental conditions (more extreme temperatures, less water availability and more acidic waters). On the other hand, they can be deposited in muscle and/or milk, and increase the nutritional value of these products.

Consumers' concerns about the nutritional value of food are increasing. The search for products with specific claims such as “source of selenium” or “rich in omega-3” is a global trend, to which animal production has, through new formulas, aimed at different age groups (children and elderly), or health conditions.

Therefore, foods rich in omega-3, iodine and selenium, iron and other minerals can be found today, which, unlike the inorganic solutions available in pharmacies, are easily assimilated, and therefore better used by our body and healthier. Food supplements in animal production will thus be a growing trend, which will help to mitigate the challenges associated with climate change and contribute to the production of healthy and safe food.

Finally, I would like to mention the impact of our food choices on the environment. Portugal is a country with a deficit in the production of most of the agricultural products it consumes, including meat, fruits, cereals (except rice), pulses and oilseeds. In other words, we have to import these products. Transport remains a significant source of air pollution, harming the environment and human health. Choosing local and sustainable products should be an individual responsibility and a contribution to a healthier planet.

Luísa M.P. Valente, Associate Professor at ICBAS

The Environment in the One Health concept

The Biosphere is the thin layer of our Planet where life has existed for 4 billion years. Since then, living beings have experienced periods of strong development, interspersed with others of overwhelming extinctions. The Homo sapiens sapiens cames to shuffle natural processes, the result of the enormous pressure exerted on the environment, now on a global scale. From a balanced survival in the past, we moved to a direct intervention, where different interests prevail, including economic ones, as the anthropocentric vision of the Planet was consolidated.

The idea of sustainable development emerged in 1987, by the hand of the United Nations, in view of the escalation of human action on the environment. Today, more than a piece of rhetoric, it is imperative to satisfy the present needs of a changing world, without jeopardizing the legacy and needs of future generations.

Nowadays, we have the perception that everything is interconnected. If, on the one hand, our activity affects the Environment, it continues to affect Man, since the degradation of the Biosphere has, inexorably, dramatic effects on human, animal and plant health.

This vision is clearly expressed in the One Health concept, in which the health of the Environment is one of the key components and, increasingly, placed on the agenda.

Adriano A. Bordalo e Sá, Director of the Department of Population Studies at ICBAS


Surveillance of animal health is essential to prevent transmission of diseases to humans

From everything we know so far, and which goes far beyond conspiracy theories, SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, originated in an animal. World Health Organization experts dispatched to Wuhan, China, concluded that the most likely scenario is a zoological origin, via an intermediate host, be it a bat or another animal that has not yet been identified. Which showed how essential it is to monitor viruses in animals in order to avoid contagion to humans. It is the so-called integrated approach to health that links the environment, animals and man and that the 'Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar', in Porto, is already doing.

See the full report at RTP website.

Source: RTP Notícias


Contribution of Anthrozoology and Environmental Psychology to One Health

The Department of Behavioral Sciences at ICBAS includes a research team dedicated to the production of scientific knowledge in the fields of Anthrozoology (the study of human-animal interactions) and Environmental Psychology (the study of people-environmental transactions). Special attention is given to the therapeutic potential of companion animals (dogs in particular) and to the benefits of Animal-Assisted Interventions implemented in various health and educational settings, and directed at different populations. Increasing attention is also being devoted by this research team to the health promoting effects associated with contact with natural and biophilic environments.

Clearly guided by a Health Promotion perspective, this team assumes the ultimate goal of translating scientific knowledge to society at large in order to i) support people in managing and improving their well-being through contact with animals and natural environments, ii) support the integration of animals and natural environments in health services, and iii) promote the conservation of Nature as a source of health and well-being.

To know more:

Dogs as promoting agents of spontaneous imitation in children and adults with severe autism spectrum disorder

Association between anxiety levels of owners and their dogs: moderation and mediation effects

Contact with nature reduces levels of mental rumination: the mediating role of wonder and humor

Contact: Karine Silva, PhD (cssilva@icbas.up.pt)


World Week for Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness

The contribution of universities to the awareness of antimicrobial resistance

From the 18th to the 24th of November, various initiatives were held at the Portuguese General Directorate of Food and Veterinary (DGAV) to mark the World Week for Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness.

Considering the topic chosen this year "Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance", DGAV collected some testimonies on video, from different personalities and professionals representing different perspectives on the impact of Antimicrobial Resistance on Public Health, Animal Health and the environment.

Professor João Niza Ribeiro, from the Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar (ICBAS), of the University of Porto, highlights, in this video, the contribution of Universities to the awareness of resistance to antimicrobials and to the application of good practices for the responsible use of antimicrobials, through the training of professionals in the area of animal production, as well as through collaboration with the authorities to develop and improve systems that allow the agricultural sectors to respond to the great challenge of reducing the use of these drugs.

Source: DGAV – Direção Geral de Alimentação e Veterinária


Innovative food strategies to promote dog health and well-being

In Europe, the population of companion animals has been increasing. In 2020, there were around 90 million dogs in 56 million households. In Portugal, around 38% of families had dogs as companion animals, with a total population of around 2 million animals. Thus, similarly to Europe, Portuguese households already have more pets than children, being these animals considered active elements of the family.

The growing humanization of companion animals has exacerbated the concern of tutors with food quality and safety, as well as with the impact of food on the well-being and health of animals. Indeed, tutors are increasingly looking for complete compound foods that ensure the satisfaction of nutritional needs and that, at the same time, have functional effects, especially in promoting health, well-being and longevity. Furthermore, the increase in the production of compound feed to face the increase in the animal population represents an environmental impact that cannot be neglected.

All these changes have contributed to the need to develop new food strategies, as well as to identify new ingredients that are more sustainable from an environmental, economic and social point of view and with functional qualities. The Animal Science Laboratory, at ICBAS, has developed several projects to find more sustainable food strategies that contribute to the promotion of health, well-being and longevity, both for puppies and adult dogs, towards to the societal challenge of One Health.

To know more:

Mineral composition of dry dog foods: impact on nutrition and potential toxicity

Effects of diet supplementation with sodium selenite and selenium-enriched in puppies’ health performance from post-weaning to adulthood

Effects of zinc source and enzyme addition on the fecal microbiota of dogs

Contact: Professor Ana Rita Cabrita (arcabrita@icbas.up.pt)


Cell-based Therapies and Medical Devices for Regenerative Medicine: from Veterinary Medicine to Men

The research group evidences a strong and reference activity aiming the Regenerative Medicine and Tissue Engineering as critical areas of the Biomedicine and Biotechnology in a perspective of One Health. The main research projects are focused in tissue regeneration, associating innovate biomaterials to autologous/ allogenic/ xenogenic stem cells, from extra-fetal sources, like the umbilical cord blood and matrix, the bone marrow, the synovia membrane and dental pulp.

A successful demonstration is followed by the establishment of collaboration with biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries working as partners, for product development, protection of intellectual property, validation in different animal models, in a long time-scale trials and further, the future application in clinics. Excellent examples of specific programs with the Industry are: 1) Regeneration of neuromuscular tissue - an Integrative Approach; 2) Nanostructured hybrid hydrogels and synthetic bone substitutes: multifunctional injectable hydrogels for bone regeneration; 3) Development of molecular and cell-based therapies activities for Veterinary and Human Clinical Applications; 4) Pre-clinical and clinical trials of cell-based therapies and medical devices for Veterinary and Human Clinical Applications.

The multidisciplinary team, including Veterinaries, Engineers, Medical Doctors that through Experimental Surgery have a crucial role in the development of biomaterials/medical devices and cell-based therapies, allows a close share of knowledge between biomaterials design, development of cellular systems, and surgeons’ needs, with an extensive experience in advanced therapy medicinal product (ATMP) development in the bio-industry point of view, with a clear vision of what is required regulatory wise to achieve a translational final production for Animals and Humans.

Recognized scientific achievements include scientific publications, higher education and training and already 3 products in the market (cell-based therapies from dental pulp and Whärton’s jelly, and a synthetic bone substitute) and an international patent - Regenera, in the final stage of proof-of-concept for horses and companion animals.

To know more:

Application of Bonelike® as synthetic bone graft in orthopaedic and oral surgery in veterinary clinical cases

Mesenchymal Stem/ Stromal Cells metabolomic and bioactive factors profiles: A comparative analysis on the umbilical cord and dental pulp derived Stem/ Stromal Cells secretome

Contact: Professor Ana Colette Maurício (acmauricio@icbas.up.pt)


Welfare, quality and safety of fish

Seafood is one of the food groups whose consumption is most encouraged by current nutritionists, as a result of its recognized benefits to human health. As a food of the future, in addition to sustainability, it is important to improve the methods for evaluating its quality and food safety.

The ongoing research at the Laboratory of Fish Technology of the Department of Aquatic Production of ICBAS focuses mainly on the development of new sensory, chemical and microbiological methods to assess the freshness of fish and identify its origin and authenticity. Measures to assess and improve animal welfare in aquaculture and the management and use of waste from their production are also research areas.

In sensory analysis, new tables under the 'Quality Index Method' have been created, for several aquatic species with relevance in Portugal.

In the area of chemistry, work was carried out for the nutritional and toxicological characterization (16 different elements) of species at the top of the food chain, presumably more problematic.

In microbiology, studies have been made to characterize the fish microflora, as well as the development of new microbiological techniques for characterization and identification of the origin of aquaculture species.

Waste management studies have been focused on the identification of sources, characterization of waste and its use as ingredient in feeds for animals, especially from aquaculture.

The work has also included the characterization of animal welfare in aquaculture fish, especially slaughter methods and improvement of their efficiency.

In the area of certification, a list of international systems for the certification of aquatic products and the main products was made, and technical support has been given to seafood companies in the creation of this type of systems for Portuguese products.

A balanced and healthy environment will support the growth of healthy aquatic beings, which will be adequate food items, providing health to animals and humans, confirming the modern vision of One Health we all want for our future world.

To know more:

Quality Index Method for fish quality control: understanding the applications, the appointed limits and the upcoming trends

Multi-elemental composition of white and dark muscles in swordfish

Contact: Professor Paulo Vaz-Pires (vazpires@icbas.up.pt)


The ecology of antimicrobial resistance

Microbiology has made a decisive contribution to the development of the One Health concept, particularly when combined with advanced microbial genomic tools. Through them, we can investigate outbreaks (e.g. Salmonella spp., Campylobacter jejuni), monitor variants of pathogenic microorganisms or understand the global circulation of bacteria and resistance genes between the human, animal and environmental biome. In fact, the bacterial species that we are most concerned about in terms of resistance (ESKAPE*) share three characteristics: (i) can colonize more than one animal species, (ii) behave mostly like commensal (e.g., are able to colonize the intestine or skin of humans and animals without causing any disease), and (iii) have a remarkable eco-resistance, being able to survive on inert surfaces, in soil or in water for a long time. Therefore, they are able to “travel” between different hosts, demonstrating that without a holistic view we will not be able to contain them.

Under this perspective, the microLAB Laboratory of the Aquatic Production Department of ICBAS – in collaboration with companies, institutions and other research groups – has been studying:

1. The presence of multi-resistant Enterobacteriaceae in different animal populations (chickens, gulls, birds of prey, wolves, bivalves, sea urchins, rabbits, dogs and cats), in humans (pet owners) and in the environment (stations of wastewater treatment, rivers, beaches, lakes and city fountains);

2. The antibacterial activity of hundreds of chemical compounds isolated in cyanobacteria and marine fungi or modified/generated by chemical synthesis processes, provided by collaborating research groups;

3. The phylogenetic proximity between bacteria isolated from humans and bacteria obtained from trains and buses (Staphylococcus aureus resistant to methicillin-MRSA) or in chickens and dogs (Campylobacter jejuni).

*Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Enterobacter spp.

To know more:

Neofiscalin A and fiscalin C are potential novel indole alkaloid alternatives for the treatment of multidrug resistant Gram-positive bacterial infections

Campylobacter jejuni in Different Canine Populations: Characteristics and Zoonotic Potential

Antimicrobial Activity of a Library of Thioxanthones and Their Potential as Efflux Pump Inhibitors

Contact: Professor Paulo Martins da Costa (pmcosta@icbas.up.pt)

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