Veterinary diagnostic expertise could have been utilized more by local authorities to understand and combat the coronavirus pandemic.">

IDEXX: Animal health testing capabilities underestimated in fight against COVID-19

14:50 PM | December 10, 2020 | Joseph Harvey

Veterinary diagnostic expertise could have been utilized more by local authorities to understand and combat the coronavirus pandemic.

This is according to Serge Leterme―vice president of innovation, regulatory, and public affairs for IDEXX Laboratories’ livestock, poultry, and dairy division.

While there has been an increasing understanding of the relationship between veterinary and human medicine, Leterme claims more needs to be done to raise the profile of the capabilities of the animal health sector.

At the recent BioFIT Digital 2020 conference, he remarked: "There is an improvement in the consideration of animal health. The two medicines―human and veterinary―are very closely related. They are linked and we cannot separate viruses or bacteria that are similar or the same, in the case of zoonoses. To fight these diseases, we use the same tools and the same methods and the quality of these products are the same.

”Maybe that is where we still have to do a lot of education. There is a perception that everything related to animal health is of a lesser quality or is less important than what is related to humans.”

Leterme highlighted the veterinary diagnostic sector’s experience of herd screening, where a lot of samples are processed over a short period of time, as a key competency that the human health space lacks.

”It’s the kind of tool that is too underestimated and could be used much more and smartly by the authorities in such a crisis,” said Leterme, who is also the president of the Diagnostics for Animals industry body.

He suggested the disconnect between animal health and human medicine exists due to administrative barriers caused by a lack of communication or cooperation between separate national agencies governing the two sectors. Leterme also pointed out the economic disproportion between the two industries, with human health drawing more investment and positing higher revenues―another roadblock to cross-sector collaboration.

He said these barriers are difficult obstacles to overcome and stated: “One Health is a beautiful concept but it’s still a long way away.”

Leterme said he hoped the COVID-19 pandemic has helped nations to become better equipped to react to emerging zoonotic threats by considering the vast number of veterinary tools available.

Also speaking at BioFIT Digital 2020 was Muriel Vayssier-Taussat―head of the animal health department at France's Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique―who echoed Leterme's sentiments. She said France did not utilize the full repertoire of testing capabilities offered by its animal health laboratory network at beginning of the COVID-19 crisis.

However, she noted the situation is “changing little by little” and the animal health’s industry’s expertise is moving more into the spotlight. Nevertheless, Vayssier-Taussat urged more collaboration to uncover and react to zoonotic threats.