Prominent Netherlands Physician Appointed  First One Health Professor for Utrecht Life Sciences Faculty of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine




Roel Coutinho the first Professor for Utrecht Life Sciences


“Zoonoses form the new threat to public health”


Roel Coutinho has been appointed Professor for Utrecht Life Sciences at the Faculty of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, with effect from 1 May. He intends to focus on the epidemiology and prevention of infectious diseases being at the interface between humans and animals. With the double appointment of Coutinho, Utrecht life Sciences is providing a significant stimulus to the ULS theme of ‘Public Health – One Health’.


The Executive Board of the University of Utrecht has appointed Dr Roel Coutinho as ULS Profiling Professor of ‘Epidemiology and the prevention of infectious diseases in the veterinary-human domain’, with effect from 1 May 2011. Professor Coutinho will collaborate with the Julius Center at the UMC Utrecht to explore new lines of research in the field of epidemiology and the dynamics of infectious diseases. In particular, he is planning to focus on the epidemiology of infectious diseases at the interface between humans and animals, the so-called zoonoses.


Humans and animals

In the wake of the Second World War, morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases started to decline more markedly in industrialised nations, due to the availability of effective vaccines and anti-microbial agents. “The result was great optimism. Many people assumed that infectious diseases had been suppressed”, comments Coutinho. “In the 1980s, HIV and AIDS forced a reversal in how people viewed infectious diseases. We realised that new infectious diseases are always appearing. Many of the new infectious diseases, and others appearing hither and thither, seemed to originate in the animal kingdom, from wild animals and also from domesticated livestock.” The latter source was more prominent in the Netherlands, with Bird Flu and Q fever, for instance. Professor Coutinho is concerned: “Zoonoses form the new threat to public health.”



In addition to his research, Professor Coutinho will also be involved in teaching medical and veterinary students in the final stages of their training. He says “Collaboration between veterinarians and doctors is generally regarded as being essential in order to improve our chances of combating any zoonoses that might appear. This is why it is so important to maintain a focus of our concentration on this notion of ‘One Health’ during the students’ education.”



Professor Coutinho is a physician and a microbiologist, and Director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Control (CIb) at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). He was previously the director of the GGD (Municipal Health Service) Amsterdam and a professor at the Academic Medical Center of the University of Amsterdam. He will combine his professorial duties at ULS with his present responsibilities at the RIVM.


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Utrecht Life Sciences

Utrecht Life Sciences is a strategic partnership of academic, public and commercial players in the fields of education, research and innovation in life sciences. ULS acts as a driving force by generating collaboration among partners to promote healthcare for humans and animals. The ULS target programmes are ‘Public Health – One Health’ and ‘Cancer, Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cells’.


Utrecht Life Sciences is an initiative by the University of Utrecht, the Utrecht University Medical Center, the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences and Danone. The other partners are the Hubrecht Institute for Developmental Biology and Stem Cell Research (of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences), Genmab, GlaxoSmithKline, Immuno Valley, TNO and Utrecht Holdings. ULS is supported by the Province of Utrecht, the Municipality of Utrecht and the Utrecht Region Innovation Taskforce. The strategic partners in education, research and entrepreneurship are all based at the Utrecht Science Park.