Open Access Highly Accessed Opinion

Issues and special features of animal health research

Christian Ducrot1*, Bertrand Bed'Hom2, Vincent Béringue3, Jean-Baptiste Coulon4, Christine Fourichon5, Jean-Luc Guérin6, Stéphane Krebs5, Pascal Rainard7, Isabelle Schwartz-Cornil3, Didier Torny8, Muriel Vayssier-Taussat9, Stephan Zientara10, Etienne Zundel11 and Thierry Pineau12

Author Affiliations

1 INRA, UR346 Epidémiologie animale, 63122 Saint Genès Champanelle, France

2 INRA, UMR1313 Génétique Animale et Biologie Intégrative, 78352 Jouy-en-Josas Cedex, France

3 INRA, UR892 Virologie et Immunologie Moléculaires, 78352 Jouy-en-Josas, France

4 INRA, Département PHASE, 63122 Saint Genès Champanelle, France

5 ONIRIS-INRA, UMR1300 Bioagression, Épidémiologie et Analyse de risque, Atlanpole La Chantrerie, BP 40706, 44307 Nantes Cedex 3, France

6 ENVT-INRA, UMR1225 IHAP Interactions hôtes-agents pathogènes, 23 chemin des Capelles, 31076 Toulouse Cedex, France

7 INRA, UR1282 IASP Infectiologie animale et santé publique, 37380 Nouzilly, France

8 INRA, UMR1323 RiTME, 65 Boulevard de Brandebourg, 94205 Ivry-sur-Seine, France

9 INRA, USC Bartonella et Tiques, ANSES, 23 Avenue du Général de Gaulle, F-94700 Maisons-Alfort, France

10 ENVA-ANSES-INRA, UMR1161 Virologie, 7 avenue du Général de Gaulle, 94704 Maisons Alfort Cedex, France

11 INRA, Département de santé animale, 37380 Nouzilly, France

12 INRA, Département de santé animale, BP 93173, 31027 Toulouse Cedex 3, France

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Veterinary Research 2011, 42:96  doi:10.1186/1297-9716-42-96

Published: 24 August 2011

Abstract

In the rapidly changing context of research on animal health, INRA launched a collective discussion on the challenges facing the field, its distinguishing features, and synergies with biomedical research. As has been declared forcibly by the heads of WHO, FAO and OIE, the challenges facing animal health, beyond diseases transmissible to humans, are critically important and involve food security, agriculture economics, and the ensemble of economic activities associated with agriculture. There are in addition issues related to public health (zoonoses, xenobiotics, antimicrobial resistance), the environment, and animal welfare.

Animal health research is distinguished by particular methodologies and scientific questions that stem from the specific biological features of domestic species and from animal husbandry practices. It generally does not explore the same scientific questions as research on human biology, even when the same pathogens are being studied, and the discipline is rooted in a very specific agricultural and economic context.

Generic and methodological synergies nevertheless exist with biomedical research, particularly with regard to tools and biological models. Certain domestic species furthermore present more functional similarities with humans than laboratory rodents.

The singularity of animal health research in relation to biomedical research should be taken into account in the organization, evaluation, and funding of the field through a policy that clearly recognizes the specific issues at stake. At the same time, the One Health approach should facilitate closer collaboration between biomedical and animal health research at the level of research teams and programmes.