One Health Unit


The interdisciplinary One Health Unit (OHU) led by Dr. Isabelle Bolon and Dr. Rafael Ruiz de Castañeda addresses emerging issues in Global Health at the human-animal-ecosystem interface, including both health risks resulting from human-animal interactions such as zoonosis but also opportunities for health promotion associated to biodiversity conservation. This brings together theory and practice from a diversity of fields such as epidemiology of infectious diseases, veterinary public health, environmental health, zoology and disease ecology, urban ecology, conservation sciences, and citizen cyber-science. The OHU leads innovative teaching activities (e.g. MOOC, flipped‐classroom, distance education in Kenyan refugee camp) and interdisciplinary research (e.g. impact of snakebite on humans and animals in Cameroon and Nepal) in collaboration with local, national and international partners (University Hospitals of Geneva, Citizen Cyberlab, InZone, WHO, MSF, ITU, EPFL, Swiss TPH, Institut Pasteur, University of Montreal). The OHU promotes an integrated One Health approach and digital innovation to better understand and tackle  global health challenges at the interface of human, animal and environmental health.

First One Health approach to snakebite

We are partners and in charge of One Health in the interdisciplinary SNSF project Snake-byte "Tackling the second deadliest Neglected Tropical Disease: predicting and reducing the impact of Snakebite on human and animal health through interdisciplinary analyses of hotspots and access to care".

Snakebite affects poor communities of the world causing over 135,000 deaths annually, and 400’000 victims of disability and psychological trauma. But the impact of snakebites on rural communities could be even higher if we look at the whole socio-ecological rural system applying the One Health approach. Since these rural communities are strongly dependent on their animals for food, work or as a direct source of revenue, a possible impact of snakebites on animals, for instance in terms of mortality or impaired productivity, could affect livelihood and human health. Although this problem is being reported by farmers and producers in different parts of the world, it has been poorly investigated and comprehensive quantification of the national, regional or global burden is missing. With an international team of experts in tropical medicine and public health, animal health, ecology and environmental sciences, herpetology, and spatial analysis, we aim to answer: What are the direct impact of snakebite on human populations in Nepal and Cameroon and the indirect impact through an impact on livestock and livelihood?

Artificial Intelligence and Citizen Sciences to tackle snakebite

We currently lead the project First medical decision-support tool for snake identification based on artificial intelligence and remote collaborative expertise. Snakebite deaths are preventable using correct antivenoms, which are often expensive, scarce and can have side effects. Unfortunately, there is no universal antivenom and available products target a limited number of venomous snakes. Accurate identification of the biting snake is important but it remains a major obstacle since healthcare providers often lack the necessary expertise in snake biology. This project aims to improve the management of snakebite in endemic countries by supporting health professionals and population at risk in (I) the identification of snakes and (II) the treatment of victims (e.g. antivenom choice). We plan to develop the first online platform to instantly and reliably identify snakes using AI-based image recognition.

Science-policy initiatives for the early notification and response to emerging infectious diseases: International landscape analysis and positioning of Switzerland

With the Covid-19 pandemic, we observed a large multiplication of initiatives to prevent and respond to emerging infectious diseases at the human-animal-environmental interface. The general objective of this project funded by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs is to develop a landscape analysis of national and international science-policy initiatives around the early notification and response to emerging infectious diseases. The resulting science-policy recommendations will support the FDFA to define and plan future cross-sectional actions for improved capacity to early detection and respond to emerging infectious diseases in collaborations with Swiss and international academic and non-academic institutions.

Press Coverage

Une IA pour aider à diminuer le nombre de morts après une morsure de serpent. RTS, CQFD, 25.03.2024
In South Sudan, doctors turn to AI to treat deadly snakebites. Geneva Solutions, 11.03.2024
Swiss expertise in international policy. One World, 01.04.2023
Humains et animaux : la double peine des morsures de serpent, Campus UNIGE, 01.03.2022
How can the “One Health” approach help change humanitarianism?, Défis humanitaires, 02.11.2021
The global fight against snake bites, BBC Future, 14.04.2021
La crise écologique favorise les pandémies, Tribune de Genève, 06.03.2021
D’autres virus apparaîtront à l’avenir, si nous n’agissons pas pour limiter les facteurs de risques, Le Temps, 01.05.2020
Une application mobile pourra identifier les serpents à l'origine de morsures, RTS, 2.07. 2019
L'intelligence artificielle se focalise sur les morsures de serpents, Journal de l'UNIGE, 28.03.2019
Les morsures de serpents cartographiées, RTS, 13.07.2018
UNIGE: une carte planétaire des morsures de serpent,, 13.07.2018
La lutte contre les serpents dangereux s’intensifie, Tribune de Genève, 13.07.2018
Serpents, poison des zones rurales, Le Temps, 10.04.2018

News and Activities 

The ITU-WHO Focus Group on ‘AI for Health’ will guide the technical development and implementation of our project "Snapp: First medical decision‐support tool for snake identification based on artificial intelligence and remote collaborative expertise". The project was recently accepted in New York as part of eight new use cases.

Our project "Snapp: First medical decision‐support tool for snake identification based on artificial intelligence and remote collaborative expertise" got funded by the "Fondation privée des HUG".
Find a description of the project here.

The kick-off meeting of the project Snake-byte took place on March 26th-27th 2018 at Campus Biotech and involved the international partners from Nepal and Cameroun, as well as snakebite experts from WHO and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine .

Learn more about our "First Global Flipped Classroom in One Health': From MOOCs to research on real world challenges" just published in the One Health Journal.
Read the article and watch the video of this event.

Discover how we used our MOOC to build Global Health / One Health capacity in the  Kakuma Refugee Camp (Kenya) in collaboration with InZone.
Watch the video of this innovative learning experience

Check our Coursera’s MOOC on "Global Health at the Human-Animal-Ecosystem Interface" and discover more about our work and the people we work with in Geneva and around the world. Joining our MOOC is a great opportunity to discuss with us and to join a global community working on or learning about Global Health (i.e. One Health, EcoHealth etc.).
Please register here , and watch the teaser here.