On the bookshelf
Zoo-what? The term 'zoobiquity' was coined by Barbara Natterson to bring together human and veterinary medicine. It’s not about zoonoses, those diseases that can pass from human to animal (or the other way round), but rather about ailments seen in both animals and humans.
Barbara Natterson is a cardiologist who had long been examining and treating her own species. This changed when she was asked to come to the zoo to have a look at an emperor tamarin with a heart anomaly. To her amazement, she saw that the ape’s abnormal heart cells looked just like the cells from human hearts with the same illness. Gradually she transitioned into the world of ailing zoo residents and treated many animals, from lions to tapirs. Along the way she became fascinated by animal ailments she was seeing with many similarities to human ailments. Her own experience and literature research led to countless examples. Prairie voles suffering from homesickness, jaguars with breast cancer, a chlamydia epidemic among koalas, obesity, anorexia: humans and animals share many diseases. Obsessive-compulsive cats that won’t stop licking their fur; self-harming Shar-Pei. For a long time, doctors of human medicine were not very interested in these maladies: “Pathetic, but what use is this to our patients?” This is beginning to change. Research on specific syndromes in animals can reveal information about healing human cartilage damage, for example; insights on eating behaviour in sows can yield an explanation of eating disorders in humans. A cancer treatment for animals (holmium therapy) could be put to use to combat human liver tumours.
One characteristic seems to be important: whether a malady occurs naturally in the animal in question. An illness induced artificially in an animal can muddy the results considerably, as is seen in medication research on lab animals.
This book has also been translated into Dutch: Dierenbrein en mensenlijf.
Authors: Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, Kathryn Bowers
Publisher: Vintage Books, 2013