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K-State Today

November 3, 2015

Parsel discusses clinical trials in pets as a means of advancing human medicine at international scientific meeting

Submitted by Greg Tammen

A Kansas State University Olathe One Health advocate recently spoke at an international scientific conference about developing a clinical research network in the Animal Health Corridor that accesses naturally occurring diseases in pets as models to advance human medicine.

Suzanne Parsel, veterinarian and project director of One Health Cubed at K-State Olathe, gave the lecture "One Health in Action: An American Perspective" at the World Veterinary Association 32nd Congress, Sept. 13-17, in Istanbul, Turkey. The congress is a biyearly, international, scientific meeting for veterinarians, public health and food safety professionals, epidemiologists, national agriculture policymakers, and other global leaders focused on the intersection of animal, human and environmental health, called One Health. The conference convened leadership from the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Organization for Animal Health.

The conference's One Health theme included keynotes on food safety and biosecurity, how to prevent the spread of infectious diseases among animals and people, and antibiotic resistance in a post-antibiotic era, among other topics.

Parsel is working to establish a clinical research network that leverages dogs with naturally occurring diseases in order to develop new treatments for humans who have the same diseases. Dogs, cats and other pets not only share the same environment as their owners, but also the same diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, obesity, asthma and arthritis.
"My message was that we need to start educating, thinking and problem-solving systemically," Parsel said. "We need to approach this concept collaboratively and engage human health researchers so that they understand how diseases and medical and surgical conditions in pets, like dogs and cats, can be leveraged to improve human health outcomes."

Using pets with naturally occurring diseases rather than laboratory animals for research is a major shift for how human medical doctors and basic research scientists develop research strategies.

"Human researchers are surprised that animals suffer with many of the same diseases as people, and are unaware of the incidence of zoonotic diseases," Parsel said. "Zoonotic diseases are infectious diseases that are transmitted from animals to people and represent 60 percent of all known infectious diseases, and 75 percent of new and reemerging infectious disease — many of which are transmitted to people by ticks, mosquitoes and fleas. Unfortunately, medical doctors and researchers receive very little or no training in zoonotic diseases.

"The One Health approach is essential for solving big, complex problems like antibiotic resistance, intercepting the spread of a zoonotic disease pandemic before it gets to the human population, and getting new medical innovations to hospitals more quickly," Parsel said. "It is essential that we have interdisciplinary collaboration so that we can have healthy animals, healthy people and a healthy planet."

In her lecture, Parsel also discussed the K-State Olathe campus, its connection to the Animal Health Corridor and the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF — all of which play pivotal roles in food safety and security, biosecurity, and in the promotion of global One Health.