A factory produces a contaminated product, and the lives of a cell connect a retired person on a limited income to a young adult consuming the same product in a different county. A contamination in dog food can sicken a dog’s human owners, while the dogs remain healthy. Contamination on a farm can send lives of a cell across the country to rich and poor.
All 3 interpretations of lives of a cell—the once independent lives of a single cell, the many lives (human, animal, bacterium, fungus, virus) of the earth, and the lives of a bacterial cell that travels throughout the earth—strongly suggest a need for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary collaborations, i.e., “One Health.” The One Health Initiative—One World, One Medicine, One Health—has as its foundation the work of Dr. Thomas and many other great scientists. The One Health vision is to improve (and help save) “the lives of all species—human and animal—through the integration of human medicine, veterinary medicine and environmental science” ().
The book draws its name from the first essay, "The Lives of a Cell," in which Thomas offers his observations on ecology and the role of cellular activity. He writes that the "uniformity of the earth's life, more astonishing then its diversity, is accountable by the high probability that we derived, originally, from some single cell, fertilized in a bolt of lightning as the earth cooled" (3).