Sciensano & One Health

Last updated on 27-2-2023 by Marinka Vangenck

Sciensano is a special partner with regard to One Health, because we have unique in-house expertise in public health, the health of animals and their environment. The collaboration between our scientists across the various sectors and the regional partners responsible for topics like the environment and habitat is therefore very important.

Sciensano and One Health

The COVID-19 pandemic showed that the One Health approach is more important than ever. The virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is a zoonotic virus. As more animals become infected with the COVID-19 virus, it is becoming increasingly clear that a One Health approach is crucial to tackle the threat of emerging diseases that affect both humans and animals.

Sciensano plays an important role by:

  • giving evidence-based answers
  • providing monitoring data about COVID-19 in Belgium
  • conducting research into the effects of COVID-19 and long COVID.

Monitoring the health of humans and animals and their environment in collaboration with others

The various monitoring programmes, questionnaires and survey studies in all our scientific departments enable us to spot changes quickly. Sciensano coordinates, among other things, the surveillance of antimicrobial resistance and the National Reference Centres (NRC) for human infectious diseases, several of which are part of Sciensano. Sciensano is also home to the National Reference Laboratories (NRL) for food-related infections and to most of the NRLs for infectious animal diseases. We coordinate the veterinary diagnosis and supervise the monitoring and surveillance programmes for farm animals for the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC). We also have networks of general practitioners, laboratories, hospitals and specialists to gauge the development of certain diseases (e.g. flu and measles). Furthermore, we conduct specialised surveys, such as the national health interview survey and the food consumption survey to map the health situation, environmental influences and risk factors. We detect other information about potential health risks by, among other things, monitoring activities in the Official Medicines Control Laboratories for vaccines and medicines and via the Belgian Early Warning System on drugs

We conduct health care analyses on the basis of data obtained from,, the health care research programmes and the quality control of medical laboratories among others. To investigate the interaction between the environment and health using the One Health approach, Sciensano works together with the regions and knowledge institutions (Vlaams Instituut voor Technologisch Onderzoek [Flemish Institute for Technological Research] (VITO), Instituut voor Landbouw, Visserij en Voedingonderzoek [Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Research] (ILVO), Vlaamse Milieumaatschappij [Flemish Environment Agency] (VMM), Institut Scientifique de Service Publique [Scientific Institute for Public Service] (ISSEP), Centre Wallon de Recherche Agronomique [Walloon Agricultural Research Centre] and Leefmilieu Brussel [Brussels Environment]).

Sciensano will coordinate the Belgian One Health Network (BEOH) and thus strengthen the collaboration with the regional authorities responsible for the environment.

Our coordinating role in the One Health European Joint Programme illustrates the EU’s confidence in our One Health expertise.

Our expertise at the service of an efficient health policy

We combine the data from our monitoring activities with other expertise and research, e.g. on the impact of antibiotics policy on antibiotic resistance, as well as the composition and function of health information systems. However, we also make the link with innovative activities aimed at gaining better knowledge of the background, mechanisms and risks associated with human and animal pathogens, immune response, genome and chemical or physical influences, through new tools (e.g. Transmission Electron Microscopy) and methods (e.g. alternative methods to replace animal experiments).

This innovative approach allows us to provide the health authorities with real-time and evidence-based advice on health policy. It also allows health authorities to respond quickly and efficiently to crisis situations, such as bird flu outbreaks, during the 2009 swine flu crisis and during the 2020-2022 COVID-19 pandemic. 

One Health research as a driver for innovation

Based on the One Health programme, Sciensano leads research projects related to, for example, the health effects of nanoparticles in food, the impact of biophysical aspects such as air pollution and pollen, antimicrobial resistance (AMR), vector-borne diseases and zoonotic diseases. Sciensano conducts studies based on surveys, genome analysis and public health data from registries, into the impact of the socio-economic environment and the interaction with lifestyle. Elements such as work, social networks, quality and access to health care have an impact on our health, as do our individual characteristics (e.g. immunity, genomic profile) and the choices we make regarding our lifestyle and behaviour. By posing health research questions from different perspectives, but also by studying them through different scientific disciplines, Sciensano aims to formulate as complete an answer as possible to our society’s health and policy issues..

In addition, open data on the environment and biodiversity provide the opportunity to include the environmental aspect in studies on the impact of the environment on health using a data-driven approach. 

Sciensano has a great deal of in-house expertise and, in order to answer today’s increasingly complex health issues, we also work permanently with national and international partners.

The One Health programme within Sciensano

Sciensano has a wide range of in-house monitoring and research activities, expertise, projects and programmes. Several of these activities have already been around for many years or even decades and have evolved over this period in line with the needs of society and the health policy. We are currently taking the next step in this evolution: bringing everything together optimally so we can take full advantage of the One Health approach. Trying to optimise everything simultaneously would, of course, be somewhat unrealistic.

That is why at Sciensano we are focusing on these 3 priority health problems:

  • antimicrobial resistance
  • zoonoses (infections that can pass from animals to humans) including respiratory parthogens, food-borne and vector-borne infections
  • risk assessment and health risks due to exposure to different environmental sources (e.g. the link between infections and air pollution).

​Links to projects

QR code

QR code for this page URL



There are currently no events associated to this health topic

Other sources of information

There are currently no external links associated to this health topic