Many diseases in the news these days — like Ebola, West Nile and avian influenza, to name a few — have jumped from animals to people — that is, they’re zoonotic. In fact, nearly 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases originate in animals.
Although the interconnection between animal and human health creates challenges, it presents incredible opportunities, too. For example, research on vaccines for bovine papilloma virus led to development of a vaccine for human papilloma virus, or HPV. Similarly, research of therapy for river blindness in people centered on adapting a drug used to control parasites in animals.
And discoveries aren’t limited to infectious disease. Because animals and people share other medical problems, like heart disease and cancer, advancements in therapy for animals can influence treatment of people — and vice versa.