ICBAS - Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Abel Salazar

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)


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, 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)


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)

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