Thursday, July 5, 2012 | By Yale Human Animal Medicine
I just finished reading my copy of the new book Zoobiquity: What Animals Can Teach us about Health and the Science of Healing, by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers. It is a ground-breaking book and essential reading for anyone interested in the connections between human and animal medicine. The authors illustrate, through a large number of side by side comparisons, the striking parallels between clinical conditions in animals and humans, and what these similarities can suggest about the root causes of disease (including evolution and environment) and how best to treat them.
Readers familiar with “One Health” concepts will find in the book vivid examples of the convergence of human, animal, and environmental health in emerging infectious diseases and animals as sentinels of toxic and infectious hazards in the environment. Yet, it is worth focusing on some of the truly innovative aspects of this book. First, Zoobiquity boldly asserts that by neglecting its comparative medicine roots, clinical medicine itself has gone astray and the medical profession needs to use the perspective of clinical science that spans different species to get back on track. We need to understand mental health problems such as addiction and self-destructive behaviors in the context of evolution and environment, just as naturalists and veterinarians strive to do, and use this perspective to design new treatment and prevention approaches. Similarly, we need to use the same tools of evolutionary and environmental understanding to rethink our approaches to chronic diseases such as obesity and cancer. Second, Zoobiquity builds the strongest case to date for greater development of clinical knowledge of animal health using techniques that are driving evidence based medicine such as randomized trials and large observational cohorts followed over time in order to glean important information useful for both animal and human health. Third, the concepts in Zoobiquity are presented so clearly and documented so extensively that they appear to have struck a chord in both the general population (see Oprah’s 2012 summer reading list) and the medical community that propels the discussion of human animal medicine linkages to a whole new level. Overall, Zoobiquity throws a gauntlet out to the biomedical scientific and clinical community, urging it not to delay further, but instead to set up an effective research and development infrastructure to pilot and test new hypotheses and clinical approaches using this enhanced comparative model It will be fascinating to see who comes forward to accept this challenge.