Exploring the Relationship Between Infections in Animals and People
Diseases that spread from animals to humans, known as “zoonotic diseases,” pose an enormous challenge to public and animal health. Researchers have estimated that over 60 per cent of known and 75 per cent of emerging human infectious diseases started in animals, and many of these have catastrophic potential.
It turns out that many of these diseases come from, and still others are spread by, our pets, which researchers are identifying as reservoirs of multidrug-resistant pathogens. The route these diseases travel from their animal to their human hosts, however, are often complicated, requiring research spanning everywhere from the laboratory to households, farms, veterinary hospitals and the environment.
Dr. J. Scott Weese, Canada Research Chair in Zoonotic Diseases, is a leading researcher on two important zoonotic pathogens— methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as “MRSA,” and Clostridium difficile—as well as other established and emerging pathogens. By simultaneously studying people, animals and food, Weese’s research team is learning about the frequency of and factors associated with transmissions of infectious diseases from animals to humans.
Weese is also a leader in veterinary infection control, and his program will translate research findings into practical and effective infection-control measures for households, farms and hospitals (both human and veterinary).
Weese’s work will provide important insights into various infectious diseases, and will improve our understanding of how zoonotic pathogens spread, and how we can control them. His research could lead directly to ways to reduce the risk of infection, including outbreaks, caused by existing zoonotic pathogens as well as the new zoonotic diseases inevitably still to come.