ICBAS - Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar

ICBAS joined investigation of the city of Porto on behalf of One Health

A diverse panel of experts from human, animal and environmental health got together, last November 3rd (International One Health Day), to discuss the One Health approach. The stage was the “1st Porto One Health Day”, organized by the Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar (ICBAS) of the University of Porto in collaboration with different research units of the city (CECA, CIIMAR, CIBIO-InBIO, CI-IPOP, FCUP, ISPUP, i3S, REQUIMTE, UMIB).

The One Health approach recognizes the connection between people, animals, plants and the environment, and aims to provide a scientific and technical response that makes it possible to prevent, detect, contain, eliminate and respond to public health threats caused by agents and events hazardous to human and animal health.

Foi sob esta perspetiva que se focaram as nove sessões do 1st Porto One Health Day, versando sobre vários temas que concentram em si uma visão holística da saúde: segurança alimentar, alterações climáticas, interação entre humanos e animais, resistência a antibióticos, impacto dos oceanos na saúde humana, impacto da pandemia nos doentes com cancro, HIV e doenças emergentes.

This was a truly transdisciplinary meeting where an increasingly current issue was discussed. The objective of the organizing committee was fulfilled: "to bring together the main Research Units of Porto to discuss health problems together from the One Health perspective, with the purpose of identifying real solutions and potential partnerships".

One Health or the “way” to “restore our planet”

The event was attended by the co-founder of the One Health Initiative, the American Laura H. Kahn. “One Health analysis of food safety and security, antimicrobial Resistance, and Climate Change in the 21st Century” was the title of the presentation which demonstrated the transversality and applicability of this concept.

“We urgently need to restore our planet. The One Health concept, which recognizes that life on Earth is interconnected, must be the way. For this, we must educate the new generations. One Health must be the basis not only for scientific research, but also for the development of policies, education and literacy”, highlighted the physician and researcher in health policies.

The director of ICBAS, Henrique Cyrne Carvalho, closed the event with the certainty that “the second step of this long journey that we are now starting will be the realization of consensus reflections on the discussed topics, which will allow us to reach decision makers, who are still unaware of the importance of the alert that we are now evoking.”

“Health deserves our extreme care, because it is the genesis of balance and sustainability. We are not going to stop as long as we feel that, albeit tenuously, we are working to find that balance”, concluded the director.

A local but international event

The event was hybrid, with all the presentations being performed in person and also broadcast online. The conference was recognized and shared by the international initiative One Health Day, receiving more than 300 registrations online. In these entries, a total of 83 institutions were represented, of which 69 Portuguese and 17 foreign. The event had participants from Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, Spain, United States, Ethiopia, Finland, Italy, Ireland, Norway, United Kingdom and Sweden, which reinforces the interest, scope and relevance of the One Health concept at an international level.

Text: Begoña Pérez Cabezas (Adapted from ‘Notícias da Universidade do Porto’)

Once upon a time

Sometimes… love

Once upon a time, there was a hard-working and active young woman named Susana, and she seemed happy. However, with a very busy professional life, with a lot of stress and a huge weight of responsibility for her performance, Susana had no rest hours. Her love life was in the third plan and, over time, her boyfriend António was unhappy, and decided to call off the engagement. Susana suffered a lot with the end of the relationship, isolated herself in her world and increasingly felt the weight of professional responsibility. After a few months, she began to experience joint pain with inflammation, followed by red spots on her face that looked like butterfly wings, and then fever. She consulted several doctors until she was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease. She started treatment with steroids and hydroxychloroquine, and improved, but she was obliged to receive regular medical care.

Once upon a time

Has Mr. Alberto not been discharged yet?

Once upon a time, Mr. Alberto, a man of advanced age, but active, had a fall, fractured his left leg, and had surgery. He was in hospital for a week and, when he was about to be discharged, he had symptoms like fever and respiratory complaints, so he had to stay in the hospital. The tests performed showed that he had pneumonia and, even before the identification of the causing microbe, he got the antibiotic treatment that is usually prescribed for this disease. After three days, Mr. Alberto still had fever and respiratory symptoms. The tests showed that the infection was generated by a bacterium, a staphylococcus, resistant to the administered antibiotics. A new antibiotic was prescribed, and after another week and a half of treatment in the hospital, Mr. Alberto was able to return home.

Once upon a time

Maria and Maltês: nonstop fun

Once upon a time there was a cat named Maltês, very cute and soft, who enjoyed trickery and jokes. He lived with Maria, a funny girl full of energy, and her family. Together, they played nonstop, from morning to night, in the living room, in the garden and even in Maria’s bed. One day, Maria became ill, she had fever and general malaise. She went to the family doctor, who diagnosed her with a “flu”. But the disease did not go away, and Maria's parents consulted another doctor, and then another, and still another. Finally, the last doctor recalled that Maria was not alone in the world, nor at home. Although her parents and grandparents were fine and the cat also looked fine, the experienced doctor ordered tests for various diseases. The diagnosis, now accurate, was toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a parasite that produces eggs only in the intestines of cats. Maria received the proper treatment and was cured!


BeachSafe Project: Is a microbiologically safe beach really safe?

In Europe, the quality of bathing water is regulated by a directive (from 2005) through two bacterial indicators: Escherichia coli and intestinal enterococci, signs of fecal contamination. However, ongoing climate change promotes the emergence of other pathogenic bacteria not related to sewage. Among them, the vibrios, ubiquitous aquatic microorganisms responsible for various human diseases, such as cholera, sepsis, or hemorrhage.

As part of the BeachSafe project, a study carried out by the ICBAS Laboratory of Hydrobiology and Ecology, which analyzed the water of 10 popular coastal beaches in northern Portugal, revealed that most have low levels of fecal contamination, but a high number of different species of vibrios, especially during the summer bathing season.

This means that bathers are exposed to emerging pathogenic bacteria not screened during official routine bathing water quality surveys. Causes of these appear to be climate change and poorly treated wastewater discharges that help to spread these bacteria.

Currently, the risks for people are still little known and the project is working to find out the implications.

To know more:

BeachSafe project description do projeto BeachSafe
– Vibrio dynamics in bathing water and associated human health risk

Contact: Professor Adriano A. Bordalo (bordalo@icbas.up.pt)


Sustainable aquaculture and functional diets for fish

Aquaculture is the fastest-growing global animal production sector, already contributing to more than 50% of the fish consumed worldwide. This growth will continue due to limitations in the capture of wild species and the increase in world population and consequent increase in demand.

Portugal already imports about 2/3 of the fish it consumes, which represents an imbalance in the trade balance of over €600 million/year. This imbalance can only be overcome through the sustained and sustainable development of aquaculture. In this sense, the European vision for the Sustainable Development of Aquaculture emerges, based on the promotion of competitiveness through innovative, environmentally sustainable methodologies, considering animal welfare and health, and the consumer's perspective.

In Portugal, as well as in Europe, essentially marine and mostly carnivorous species are produced. In the national territory, the main ones are turbot, sea bream, trout, sea bass and sole. The production of these species implies knowing the nutritional requirements of each one of them to ensure excellent growth, optimizing animal health and well-being.

The existing diets on the market are particularly designed for each species and these formulations follow well-defined and regulated rules. The entire process is tracked to ensure consumer safety. Likewise, the nutritional value of each fish depends on these diets, being important to ensure that they meet the highest quality requirements.

The CIIMAR Fish Nutrition, Growth and Quality Laboratory, led by an ICBAS Professor, works to optimize and evaluate sustainable production practices in aquaculture and improve the quality, safety and well-being of fish. It also prepares functional diets for these animals, designed to promote their health and nutritional value, to respond to the growing demands of the consumer.


To know more:

- Fish Nutrition and Feeding
- Increased growth and immune response of European sea bass through diet
- Change in lipid metabolism and oxidative stress of rainbow trout through diet

Contact: Professor Luísa Valente (lvalente@icbas.up.pt)


Vet-OncoNet Project: One Oncology, One Health

Many of the tumors in companion animals are comparable to human tumors and can serve as a model in epidemiological studies and clinical trials.

In clinical trials, companion animals are better positioned than animal models, such as laboratory mice, because in addition to being exposed to similar environmental risk factors, they develop cancer spontaneously and quickly, which favors clinical results. In the future, it is expected that companion animals can be used as sentinels for risky environments for humans, enabling the adoption of preventive measures appropriate to human and environmental health.

Vet-OncoNet is a network for sharing information on companion animal tumors and research of risk factors. This platform is an initiative of ICBAS and the Institute of Public Health of the University of Porto (ISPUP), framed in the One Health policies of these institutions. It involves researchers from the departments of Population Studies, Veterinary Clinics, Pathology and Molecular Immunology at ICBAS and the Department of Veterinary Public Health of ISPUP. The University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro (UTAD) joined this initiative, becoming a co-founding institution of the Vet-OncoNet Network. Built on the pillars of the One Health concept and vision, it aims to contribute to progress in prevention and therapy in animal and human oncology. They mutually benefit from this joint approach and knowledge sharing between scientists from different fields.

Within this academic-scientific context, Vet-OncoNet's mission is to develop scientific activity, teaching, dissemination, and communication of credible information in the field of Animal Oncology.

To know more:

Vet-Onconet: Information sharing network on neoplasms of pets and investigation of risk factors

Contact: Professor João Niza Ribeiro (jjribeiro@icbas.up.pt)


Prevention of physical and mental retardation through iodine intake

Humans and other animals require the intake of a certain amount of iodine, a nutrient necessary for the regular functioning of the thyroid, a gland that regulates the body's metabolism.

Food, water, and breathing the iodine-rich coastal air are the natural sources of this nutrient. Fish, dairy products, and seaweed used to be enough to cover our needs. However, the new nutritional paradigm in the developed world favors the intake of iodine-poor foods. Iodine deficiency, especially during pregnancy and in the first years of life, can compromise the physical and mental development of children.

Salt iodization is the cheapest, most sustainable, and universal way to deal with this problem. The process started a century ago in Switzerland. In Western Europe, mandatory use is not widespread, and the disability can reach worrying levels. In Africa, due to the contribution of the International Community, students are regularly supplemented. Urine tests are used to check iodine levels. However, low or high levels of iodine lead to the same disease - goiter. Therefore, correct daily intake by children and adults, including pregnant women, is imperative to address iodine deficiency worldwide.

The Laboratory of Hydrobiology and Ecology of ICBAS assesses, in Guinea-Bissau (and beyond), the sufficiency of iodine in human urine using a method certified for this purpose. This work is essential to identify iodine deficiency and deal with its consequences.

To know more:

- Endemic goiter and iodine deficiency status among Guinea-Bissau school-age children
- Can non-fortified marine salt cover human needs for iodine?

Contact: Professor Adriano A. Bordalo (bordalo@icbas.up.pt)


Cholera: The forgotten pandemic

For several millennia, cholera - an acute diarrheal disease that can lead to death in a few days if left untreated - devastated the Indian subcontinent. Vasco da Gama, the well-known Portuguese navigator, died of cholera in southern India in the 16th century.

Cholera is still active today in four continents, with a special incidence in Africa. The disease is already in the 7th pandemic, which has been going on since 1960. In Europe, the last epidemic occurred in Portugal in 1974, where it infected almost 2,500 citizens and killed 48.

Contaminated water and food are the main sources of the cholera agent - a vibrio (bacteria) ubiquitous in coastal waters. Once ingested in a sufficient dose, the bacteria can escape the stomach's acid barrier and colonize the intestine. If toxins are produced, a person can lose up to 20 liters of internal fluid through watery diarrhea. If these fluids are not replaced, the patient dies. The treatment is particularly inexpensive, by electrolyte replacement through the administration of an oral rehydration solution, a mixture of sugar and salts and (eventually) common antibiotics.

Lack of clean water, sanitation, hygiene, and poor health care favor the spread of the disease. The battle for eradication is far from being accomplished, an additional problem for the poorest of the poor. The Laboratory of Hydrobiology and Ecology of ICBAS studies the conditions of access to water (quality and microbiology) of the population in Guinea-Bissau, analyzes the relationship between water consumption and the onset of disease, and identifies the possible causes of contamination of this precious liquid

To know more:

Water bags as a potential vehicle for transmitting disease in a West African capital, Bissau
Analysis of the bacterial community composition in acidic well water used for drinking in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa

Contact: Professor Adriano A. Bordalo (bordalo@icbas.up.pt)


1st Porto One Health Day

International One Health Day at ICBAS

November 3rd, 2021

Talks about One Health organized by ICBAS and different Research Units of the University of Porto, with the participation of Dr. Laura H. Kahn (Co-founder of the One Health Initiative One Health Initiative).

Todas as palestras foram realizadas em formato presencial e on-line. Check the full program. 

Read the interview that we performed to Dr. Laura H. Kahn.

See the videos of the talks.

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