Zoonoses are defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as any disease or infection that is naturally transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans. Zoonotic diseases, which can be spread by consumption of contaminated food, by direct contact with infected animals or via the environment, are responsible for some of the most important public health problems. Approximately 60% of infectious diseases in humans and 75% of emerging infections are estimated to be of animal origin. Foodborne zoonotic agents such as SalmonellaE. coli, Campylobacter and norovirus have long been considered as important causes of foodborne zoonoses and the impact of toxigenic agents, which have been observed in foodborne intoxications due to consumption of shellfish should not be ignored. MERS (coronavirus), avian influenza, tuberculosis, rabies, West Nile fever and Rift Valley fever are also zoonotic but transmission to man is via animals, either directly or via insect vectors or the environment; all are considered major public health issues on a global scale.
 
The recent introduction of bluetongue viruses in Northern Europe and transmission by European mosquitoes has highlighted the potential consequences for both animal and human health by the introduction of vector borne pathogens. Thus the role of animals, including wildlife, as reservoirs of existing, or possible future, public health problems should not be underestimated. 

Moreover, the global rise of resistance to therapeutic agents used to treat infections caused by zoonotic agents, coupled with the lack of development of new antimicrobial agents has also provided us with a reminder that rapid and effective treatment of disease associated with zoonotic challenges is under threat and that this is an emerging issue on a European and global scale. 

The full extent of the cost and societal burden of zoonoses associated with pathogenic bacterial, viral and parasitic micro-organisms is difficult to estimate, but considering foodborne illness alone the economic cost is substantial.

Rising to the challenges of monitoring and controlling zoonoses requires a multidisciplinary approach and the co-ordinated activities of scientific professionals from several sectors, including the veterinary and human public health sectors. 
These challenges include:

(i)     Understanding the epidemiology and pathogenesis to implement surveillance and monitoring.
(ii)    Collection and rapid analysis of surveillance information to inform policy/stakeholders.
(iii)   Rapid analysis of zoonotic potential and risk.
(iv)   Development of improved, harmonised surveillance methods for early detection.
(v)    Identification and evaluation of cost effective interventions.
(vi)   Trend monitoring to inform future legislative developments for control at EU and global level.

In many countries these sectors have been traditionally fragmented by institutional, professional, geographical and economic separation of animal health, food production and human health systems. In Europe, this fragmentation has been compounded by national boundaries. Consequently, veterinary and human oriented researchers in the area of foodborne zoonotic diseases in Europe have traditionally worked independently, often using different tools. 
 
In many countries these sectors have been traditionally fragmented by institutional, professional, geographical and economic separation of animal health, food production and human health systems. In Europe, this fragmentation has been compounded by national boundaries. Consequently, veterinary and human oriented researchers in the area of foodborne zoonotic diseases in Europe have traditionally worked independently, often using different tools. 

Research activities calling upon state-of-art technologies, including advances in genomics, biotechnology, bioinformatics and predictive microbiology and are applied across veterinary, food and public health sectors by collaboration of partner institutes with extensive experience of conducting and validating technological developments is essential to combating the threats of zoonotic diseases. However, equally, if not more important, is the strengthening of international partnerships by adopting a One-Health approach to the dissemination of information and of harmonised tools and skills as well as access to an integrated network of expertise.