COVID-19, SARS, Ebola virus disease, monkey pox… these are just some of the pathogens transmitted from animals to humans, known as zoonoses, that are mobilizing health authorities worldwide. This is not a new phenomenon: for decades, scientists have been sounding the alarm that civilization’s encroachment on wilderness areas is reducing natural barriers, thereby increasing the risk of zoonoses emerging. Scientists estimate that more than six out of ten known infectious diseases in humans are of animal origin, and three out of four new or emerging infectious diseases originate from animals.

However, the global pandemic of COVID-19 has demonstrated the power of scientific research, and genomics in particular, to tackle emerging pathogens. Genomics enables us to understand how pathogens spread, to develop rapid and affordable targeted diagnostic tests, to identify new therapeutic molecules and to develop and market vaccines. In addition, genomic data enable us to monitor the evolution of diseases and the emergence of their variants on a global scale.

The risk of epidemics caused by emerging pathogens will continue to be high. To reduce our vulnerability, the One Health approach is particularly relevant in the fields of food safety, the fight against “zoonoses” and antimicrobial resistance. This approach is trans-sectoral: in other words, it enables us to study the transmission of pathogens and their impacts between animals, humans and the environment. It can be applied to the design and implementation of pathogen surveillance programs in the wastewater of major metropolises, to the development of screening policies in agricultural settings, to the establishment of reporting registers in hospitals, as well as to the development of research in which teams of scientists from different disciplinary fields collaborate to improve health outcomes for all living things.


Morens, D., Breman, J., Calisher, C., Doherty, P., Hahn, B., Keusch, G., … . Taubenberger, J. (2020). The Origin of COVID-19 and Why It Matters. Am J Trop Med Hyg, 103(3), pp. 955-959.

Saravanan, K. A., Panigrahi, M., Kumar, H., Rajawat, D., Nayak, S., Bhushan, B., & Dutt, T. (2022). Role of genomics in combating COVID-19 pandemic. Gene, 823, 146387.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). Zoonotic Diseases. Web site consulted March 30, 2022: