Australia has launched a new international research program to help address the growing rate of zoonotic diseases across South-East Asia and the Pacific.
The Morrison Government will invest $10.2 million over three years in the Research for One Health Systems Strengthening Program, bringing together leading Australian researchers and regional counterparts to address issues at the critical interface between people, animals and the environment.
Three quarters of emerging infectious diseases are transmitted from animals to humans, with COVID-19 a stark reminder of how zoonotic diseases can have a devastating impact on communities and health systems around the world.
The One Health program is led by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Indo-Pacific Centre for Health Security.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said the research reinforced Australia’s commitment to learning important lessons from pandemics and improving health and food security in our region.
“Other viruses like SARS and MERS crossed from animal to human in the same way COVID-19 did, with deadly consequences,” Minister Payne said. “It’s important we do what we can to reduce the risk of the emergence and transmission of new zoonotic diseases, to protect lives and livelihoods into the future.”
Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud said health and agricultural systems will better protect communities if they are purposefully integrated. The One Health program will help improve this integration.
“The government is committed to improving health and food security in our region, and taking concrete action to reduce the zoonotic disease risks posed by human use of animals,” Minister Littleproud said.
The research will address zoonotic malaria in Indonesia, antimicrobial resistance in Fiji, extrapulmonary tuberculosis and zoonotic arboviruses in Papua New Guinea, and highly pathogenic avian influenza policies and implementation in Cambodia, Laos PDR and Vietnam.
The Australian research institutions receiving funding through the program include CSIRO, Menzies School of Health Research, University of Melbourne’s Nossal Institute for Global Health, Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness and the Burnet Institute.