One Health: parasites and beyond…

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Blake, DP ; Betson, ME (2016)

The field of parasitism is broad, encompassing relationships between organisms where one benefits at the expense of another. Traditionally the discipline focuses on eukaryotes, with the study of bacteria and viruses complementary but distinct. Nonetheless, parasites vary in size and complexity from single celled protozoa, to enormous plants like those in the genus Rafflesia. Lifecycles range from obligate intracellular to extensive exoparasitism. Examples of parasites include high profile medical and zoonotic pathogens such as Plasmodium, veterinary pathogens of wild and captive animals and many of the agents which cause neglected tropical diseases, stretching to parasites which infect plants and other parasites (e.g. (Blake et al., 2015; Hemingway, 2015; Hotez et al., 2014; Kikuchi et al., 2011; Meekums et al., 2015; Sandlund et al., 2015). The breadth of parasitology has been matched by the variety of ways in which parasites are studied, drawing upon biological, chemical, molecular, epidemiological and other expertise. Despite such breadth bridging between disciplines has commonly been problematic, regardless of extensive encouragement from government agencies, peer audiences and funding bodies promoting multi-disciplinary research. Now, progress in understanding and collaboration can benefit from establishment of the One Health concept (Stark et al., 2015; Zinsstag et al., 2012). One Health draws upon biological, environmental, medical, veterinary and social science disciplines in order to improve human, animal and environmental health, although it remains tantalizingly difficult to engage many relevant parties. For infectious diseases traditional divides have been exacerbated as the importance of wildlife reservoirs, climate change, food production systems and socio-economic diversity have been recognised but often not addressed in a multi-disciplinary manner. In response the 2015 Autumn Symposium organized by the British Society for Parasitology (BSP; https://www.bsp.uk.net/home/) was focused on One Health, running under the title ‘One Health: parasites and beyond…’. The meeting, held at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) in Camden, London from September 14th to 15th, drew upon a blend of specialist parasitology reinforced with additional complementary expertise. Scientists, advocates, policy makers and industry representatives were invited to present at the meeting, promoting and developing One Health understanding with relevance to parasitology. The decision to widen the scope of the meeting to non-parasitological, but informative topics, is reflected in the diversity of the articles included in this special issue. A key feature of the meeting was encouragement of early career scientists, with more than 35% of the delegates registered as students and 25 posters.
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