Keynote Lecture : Animal Disease Control – Do We Still Need Pathologists?
Pathology is one of the oldest disciplines in medicine and studies the mechanisms of disease based on morphological lesions and functional changes. Its aim in veterinary medicine is to advance our understanding of the pathogenetic causes and to help develop methods to prevent disease in animals and humans. Since antiquity and due to its fundamental importance, pathology has always been in the focus of the theoretical debate on health and illness. From this central position human, but also veterinary pathology act as bridging disciplines that link “cutting edge” biological research with clinical medicine and thus, eventually also with the diagnosis of diseases. In this context, veterinary pathologists play a key role in improving and protecting health and welfare not only of animals but also of humans. This underlines the crucial impact of veterinary pathologists for the human-animal-bond. With their abundant and vital expertise veterinary pathologists contribute to a wide range of topics in the field of public health: Monitoring and control of animal diseases, safeguard of animal welfare, diagnosis of new and emerging pathogens, assurance and improvement of food safety, establishment and development of animal models for human diseases, new drug development for animals and humans, epidemiological surveys and studies in domestic and wildlife animals, and this not only restricted to mammalians and vertebrates. Despite considerable advances that have been achieved in human and veterinary medical microbiology over the last decades, including sophisticated and extremely powerful, specific and sensitive molecular techniques such as proteomics and metagenomics, zoonoses, i.e. infectious diseases that are transmissible between animals and humans, are increasingly recognised as major sources of illness and death worldwide. The importance of animals as potential vectors for infectious diseases that affect human populations is growing. Globally, WHO estimates that 26% of human deaths are caused by infectious agents; 2/3 of human infections originate directly or indirectly from animals, and approximately 75% of recently emerging human infectious diseases are of animal origin. Although various diagnostic manuals, including the golden standard of the O.I.E., prescribe gross pathology and histopathological techniques as mandatory for only very few reportable or notifiable infectious diseases, veterinary pathologists usually are, or should at least be among the first to encounter infectious disease outbreaks in animals. Necropsy including the open-view-approach of pathologists remains the state-of-the-art technology that opens the diagnostic window, especially in cases where collaborative work with various specialists including practitioners and clinicians, official veterinarians, epidemiologists, physicians, and microbiologists is needed. This lecture will demonstrate how veterinary pathologists in the past have played a critical role in promoting the knowledge of infectious diseases of public health impact. Prion diseases (‘Mad Cow Disease’), infection with H5N1 influenza virus (‘bird flu’) or pandemic H1N1 influenza (‘swine flu’) are the most prominent examples for zoonoses that hit the news. Rabies in bats, African Swine Fever in wild boar, the emergence of new bunyaviruses in wild and domestic animals, differential diagnoses of vesicular diseases altogether with the implementation of new technologies such as microdissection, MALDI-imaging and automated quantitative image analysis applications will be targeted in the presentation and demonstrate that also in the future broad-based trained veterinary pathologists will be in an excellent position to be involved in the discovery of emerging and new infectious diseases, and remain a vital element in the multidisciplinary approach for animal disease control.