Researchers on One Health and the Proper Use of Medications: Behind the Scenes of Rare Species Conservation and Infectious Disease Control

Released on February 22, 2024.
Takao Shishido, a leading researcher at Shionogi’s's Institute for Infectious Disease Research, has made significant remarkable contributions to the development of antiviral medications, including those for influenza. He shares why he is also focused on using these treatments to conserve endangered species, a seemingly different field, and the moments where these two intersect.

Why I Started Working on Rare Species Conservation

“My personal beliefs and the company’s's goals aligned perfectly, and that was the catalyst for my involvement in rare species conservation," Shishido passionately explains.

In the fall of 2022 and the following spring, highly pathogenic avian influenza wreaked havoc in Japan, not only affecting poultry farms with mass bird rearing but also threatening the survival of rare wild birds and endangered species. A notable example was the discovery of approximately 1,500 sick cranes in Kagoshima Prefecture.

“Indeed, there is's a dilemma about using human medications on birds,” says Shishido. "“But rather than choosing between birds or and humans, we decided to leverage our strengths to save lives. It is's not just a choice; it is's a critical decision about saving both or losing both."”
This initiative was driven not only by that moment but also by deep respect for researchers and veterinarians dedicated to saving endangered species.
“There are researchers in Japan who are fully committed to saving endangered species, driven by the desire to rescue species pushed to the brink of extinction by human activities. Supporting their efforts is another reason why I a'm passionate about this project,” Shishido explains.
With this conviction and expertise, Shishido and his company launched a conservation project for rare species.

Threat of Avian Influenza to Rare Bird Species and Challenges in Treatment

"Highly pathogenic avian influenza is not just a disease of domestic poultry.” Indeed, this disease can have a high mortality rate in birds other than chickens and significantly considerably impact the ecosystems of rare species. Shishido emphasizes the need for proactive measures.

“I ha've seen many veterinarians desperately trying to use antiviral drugs, facing the urgent issue of not knowing the correct dosage and administration,” Shishido notes. Antiviral drugs can only be effective when used administered in a the proper dosage and manner, and their improper use can lead to viruses resistant to the drugs, highlighting the need requirement for proper education.

“When tackling infectious diseases in rare species, medication alone is insufficient. Proper facilities, systems, and protocols are necessary to use therapeutic drugs effectively. In zoos and similar settings, animals have been euthanized to prevent the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza, a situation we desperately want to change,” Shishido passionately argues.

Collaborative Efforts in Infectious Disease Control by Industry, Government, and Academia

Researchers working towards One Health
Researchers working towards One Health

Infectious disease control cannot be solved by a single organization or researcher alone.

Addressing infectious diseases in rare species is complex and, requiresing the establishment of appropriate dosages and administrations for of antiviral drugs based on pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic theories. However, the cost and specialized skills required for this measurement have prevented many several researchers and facilities from pursuing it.

To overcome this bottleneck, Shishido collaborated with members of his company’s's project team and the One Health Research Center at Hokkaido University. Together In collaboration with Professor Yoshihiro Sakoda of Hokkaido University’s's Veterinary Medicine, they developed a system to measurefor measuring blood drug concentrations led by academia and at a low cost.
Shishido states, "I want people to know that pharmaceutical companies have play a role in solving biodiversity and endangered species issues. Despite these the daunting challenges, people from industry, government, and academia are working hard together to find solutions. The synergy created by this collaboration can help protect rare species and contribute to broader infectious disease control."

Researcher Shishido’s Vision for One Health

“The moment when my personal interests align with the company’s's mission is incredibly exciting. This “'Infectious Disease Control for Rare Species”' project started small, but now, it has grown, with more people involved and a stronger focus,” says Shishido.

The project’s's goal is clear: “To establish a proper usage system for medications related to infectious diseases threatening biodiversity.”

Infectious diseases in animals, including rare species, are not just a conservation issue. Emerging or re-emerging zoonotic diseases can impact human society as a whole, necessitating a multidisciplinary approach involving industry, government, and academia.
“Our ultimate goal is One Health. It is's necessary to consider the health of humans, animals, ecosystems, and the environmental issues affecting them all. Achieving this requires compassion for rare species and the preservation of biodiversity. Being part of this crucial mission is my greatest joy.”
Shishido and Shionogi will continue to address "“infectious diseases"” from a One Health perspective.
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