MAAP-PAS-ANSO Hybrid Workshop on Ecosystem Restoration: One-Health and Pandemics

By Humna Sajjad,Syed Ahsan shahid

Ecological Restoration: One Health and Pandemics

Humanity is currently dealing with a number of interlinked existential crises. Ecological degradation, climate change, and biodiversity loss have disastrous consequences for human health and well-being. Furthermore, the emergence and transmission of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 are linked to ecosystem health. For example, zoonotic infections account for 75% of new infectious diseases, and they are caused by unsustainable resource usage, animal factory farming, and other large-scale anthropogenic influences. As these pandemics show, environmental destruction can play an important role in a worldwide public-health crisis.

It is commonly agreed that COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic. We need holistic approaches like One Health (an area of research that recognizes human, animal, and ecological health as interconnected. One health seeks to increase communication and collaboration between humans, animals, and environmental health professionals to prevent spread of diseases.

To shed light on this important topic, “Ecosystem Restoration: One-Health and Pandemics; hybrid workshop” was organized by the Pakistan Academy of Sciences (PAS) and Monbukagakhusho-MEXT Alumni Association of Pakistan (MAAP) and sponsored by the Pakistan Academy of Sciences (PAS) and Alliance of International Science Organization (ANSO)  on June 5, 2022. The workshop was celebrated with the participation of more than 150 participants from different walks of life.

The event was honored by the online presence of Prof. Khalid Mahmood Khan, President Pakistan Academy of Sciences (PAS). The Secretary-General, PAS, Prof. Tasawar Hayat welcomed the distinguished guests and explained that ecological restoration is a clear and measurable strategy to address the global disease burden and enhance public health. Prof. Khalid Mahmood Khan described in detail the Ecological Restoration and One Health aspect and its implications in Pakistan. He emphasized that all research institutes, young scientists, and students need to collaborate in an effective way to bring forward sustainable solutions. Prof. Zabta Khan Shinwari, (Prof Emeritus at QAU, President MAAP, and fellow of PAS) briefed about the seminar program and discussed that natural ecosystem restoration could provide paths for reversing some of the effects of climate change and easing the global disease burden.

The first guest speaker Dr. Zabta Khan Shinwari, talked about the biodiversity loss: One-Health and pandemics. He highlighted the importance of the topic by raising questions what was the reason for this pandemic? Is this the last pandemic? He emphasized the role of biodiversity in one health and how it will help in preventing the next pandemic. He quoted the WHO saying: “No one is safe until everybody is safe.” He talked about the reasons for zoonotic diseases including a decline in biodiversity, and people eating wild animals and has a long tradition of using them in traditional medicines, this practice likely increases the transmission risks of microbes from animals to humans. Other reasons included are intensive wild farming, live animal market, domestic animals, and wildlife hunting. He stressed the conservation of biodiversity by stating that four of the World’s 36 biodiversity hotspots are found in the Hindukush Himalaya and if the world community tries to protect them this will prove to be a major chance to avoid the next pandemic. The Ecosystem Restoration: One Health and Pandemics approach needs to engage and receive the contributions of Government lawmakers, the scientific community, and regulators to work together and to help the planet mitigate at least some of the threats we have created.

The other talk was given by honorable guest Dr. Nancy Cornell, US NAS. She presented the importance of AI and biodiversity in maintaining the health of the ecosystem on which we and all other species depend, but we are eroding health and quality of life more rapidly than ever. She emphasized that regular biodiversity monitoring improves biodiversity outcomes and Artificial Intelligence holds great promise for improving the conservation and sustainable use of biological and ecosystem values in a rapidly changing and resource-limited world.

Another talk was presented by Dr. Dave Franz, US-NAS. He talked about the Insurance policy for the future in a rapidly changing and complex world quoting “We haven’t had a truly large scale public health disaster, a pandemic, for nearly a century we are resilient people but we may be taking disease too lightly in this new, smaller and very changed world”. He emphasized that the future can be scary, and we are driving in the dark and “planning is more important than the plans”. So, there is a dire need to take several measures by different stakeholders coupled with support from the community to abate the risk of catastrophic spread of the virus.

Others invited speakers were Dr. Tim Trevan (co-founder Chrome Biorisk Management Consulting), Prof. Dr. Nariyoshi Shinomiya (President, National Defense Medical College, Japan), Dr. Qadeer Ahsan (Fleming Fund, UK), Dr. Quaid Saeed (CEO, Islamabad Healthcare Regulatory Authority), Prof. Dr. Li Cui (Institute of Urban Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences), Dr. Shahbaz Khan (UNESCO, Beijing), Prof. Lijun Shang and Dr. Malcolm (London Metropolitan University) presented on topics related to One-health and Pandemics, approach to tackle antimicrobial resistance, steps to mitigate risks of zoonosis, the role of IHRA in controlling pandemics, and how open science for all benefits all the humanity and leaving no one behinds. 

Dr. Muhammad Ali, PI-ANSO project presented an overview of bat-borne viruses. He highlighted that bats make up approximately 20% of all mammal species. The evolution of their physical, physiological, and behavioral characteristics has allowed them to expand all over the world. They are suitable reservoirs because of flight capability, longevity, migratory behaviors, hibernation, virus recombination, bat echolocation, and distinctive immunological traits. He presented an overview of the new era in bat virome research that started with high throughput sequencing or next-generation sequencing for assessing the viral richness and diversity in bats.

The seminar was concluded by H. E. Ryuji Iwasky (representative of the Japan Embassy in Islamabad) with a take-home message on the importance of environmental preservation and how it is essential for us, and how by adopting Ecosystem restoration: One health and pandemic approach to not only prevent outbreaks in zoonotic diseases, but also the other environmental issues including food safety and antimicrobial resistance. Furthermore, it’s a collective responsibility of all different government and non-government organizations to address the challenges through the engagement of society and the research community along with the introduction of new policies to mitigate these threats for the future generation.

Organized by

Pakistan Academy of Sciences (PAS)

&

Monbukagakusho-MEXT Alumni Association of Pakistan (MAAP)

Supported by

Pakistan Academy of Sciences (PAS) & Alliance of International Science Organization (ANSO)

Venue:

Pakistan Academy of Sciences

3-Constitution Avenue, G-5/2

Islamabad, Pakistan

The report have been prepared by our students:

  1. Humna Sajjad
  2. Syed Ahsan shahid