National emergency preparedness in a global world

Preparedness for infectious disease emergencies and congenital diseases is constantly challenged in a global world.

Increased mobility, tourism, and trade in e.g. food and live animals cause infections to occur and spread at a high speed. Climate changes expand the areas in which diseases typically occur, and socioeconomic as well as political conditions are causing large numbers of people to flee or migrate and increase the risk of biological terrorism etc.

Effective emergency preparedness plans must be internationally anchored since the threats by nature know no borders. Internationally, Statens Serum Institut (SSI) is cooperating with other emergency preparedness institutions abroad with the same purpose. This cooperation through the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) is among SSI's central responsibilities.

New diseases and epidemics

At regular intervals, new and unexpected diseases, i.e. emerging diseases, such as influenza pandemics, SARS, MERS, and the recent Zika virus outbreak, occur, posing threats to global health and economy. The interplay between the human, veterinary, and foodstuff areas plays a significant role: In a One-Health perspective, increasing focus is on how disease threats often occur through exchange of viruses, bacteria, and resistance mechanisms from animals to humans.

Increasing antibiotic resistance

A particular challenge is the increasing occurrence of antibiotic resistance (antimicrobial resistance). An increasing number of bacteria cannot be controlled effectively by antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest challenges facing society. It poses a risk of rendering many treatments ineffective or only feasible with the patient's health at risk. Infections that we today view as trivial can become deadly. Furthermore, we can expect significantly increased health expenditure.

Increased life expectancy and lifestyle diseases

The health sector is undergoing large changes as the average life expectancy is increasing and a long list of lifestyle diseases, chronical diseases, and cancer are on the rise. The treatment of these diseases is continuously improved, but active treatment of e.g. cancer often affects the patient's immune system. Thus, prevention, control, diagnostics, and treatment of infections are important in all clinical specialties.

Research on and detection of new biomarkers contribute to a more goal-oriented and improved monitored treatment of these diseases (personalized medicine). Moreover, thanks to the technological improvement, predisposition to a number of diseases can be detected early in life and thereby prevented.

Human and animal health

In 2020, SSI and the University of Copenhagen take over responsibility for the Danish veterinary emergency preparedness. SSI will in future not only be strengthening human health but also animal health in a One-Health perspective. Integrated human/animal disease surveillance is a visionary innovation that will reinforce both the veterinary and the human emergency preparedness.

There is a reason why some of the diseases we fear the most have names such as "bird flu". The same infectious diseases are infecting both humans and animals, and they often develop and become more dangerous as they jump from animals to humans. Also, repeated use of antibiotics can increase the number of drug-resistant bacteria, regardless of whether humans or animals are being treated.

Research a priority for all SSI's core areas

Research is a priority for all of SSI's core areas. The conduct of high-quality, internationally recognized research is a prerequisite for finding solutions to the healthcare challenges facing Denmark and the international community now and in years to come. If these challenges are not effectively and duly solved, it may have considerable negative health and economic consequences. SSI is one of Denmark's largest contributors to the field of health research.

Mads Melbye


Mads Melbye, President, CEO, Direktionen / Statens Serum Institut
T. +45 32683163 @. View profile