Veterinarian Thierry Lefrançois has joined France’s Conseil scientifique, the body which advises the government on Covid-19. Catherine Chirouze (infectious disease specialist), Angele Consoli (child psychiatrist) and Olivier Guérin (president of the French Geriatric Society) are also new members of the panel.
“I’ve not been the only one calling for this,” said Loïc Dombreval, from Vence (Alpes-Maritimes).
“A veterinarian leads Germany and Finland’s equivalents of the Conseil scientifique.
“First, coronaviruses are well known to vets. In fact, it was vets who first discovered them.
“They have been able to treat mammals with coronaviruses, and humans are mammals.
“They have used treatments, developed vaccines, assessed treatments and vaccines, so have experience in this area.
“Secondly, they are used to treating epidemics.
'Every four or five years, there are big epidemics in animals, and vets’ approach is always to treat the population as a whole, not just individuals, as most doctors have the experience of doing'
“We also know that Covid-19 is a zoonosis. This is a disease or infection that is naturally transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans (it is not yet known which animal transmitted Covid-19 to humans).
“Our goal is to find a cure for humans but the fact that until now we have been forgetting about the animal origins of the virus by not including veterinarians in our scientific research seems to me to be an error of reasoning.
“We need to take a global approach and combine different areas of expertise, such as veterinary science and also ecology. The role of the veterinarian in the Conseil scientifique will be to bring their knowledge of coronaviruses and their experience in tackling them to see in what ways the protocols for managing epidemics in animals can be duplicated for humans.
“I am not saying that a veterinarian will enter the Conseil scientifique in the role of saviour and wave a magic wand to resolve all the problems. It is part of a global approach.
“And this inclusive approach is the only way we will be able to tackle future pandemics; and there will be others.
“If humans continue to behave as they have until now in terms of biodiversity, in terms of deforestation and destroying animals’ natural habitats, in taking animals from their homes and putting them in close contact with species they would never normally be in contact with, we will have big problems.
“Scientists estimate that there are around 1,000 to 1,500 viruses or bacteria in nature that we do not know about yet.
“Of those, we estimate there are around 800 that could be pathogenic and could trigger a disease in humans.
“If we continue with this ignorance and arrogance towards the natural world, we will put ourselves in danger.
“That is what has happened with Covid-19 and is why our response must be global and include different expertise.”