Trends in infectious diseases and clinical microbiology at ECCMID 2016

Keynote sessions on antimicrobial resistance, the microbiome and systems vaccinology as well as presentations on late-breaking research on refugee health and colistin resistance at ECCMID 2016

The annual meeting of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases is taking place this year from April 9 – 12 in Amsterdam. At the world’s largest congress focused on infectious diseases and medical microbiology researchers will present more than 3,000 abstracts with the latest findings and recommendations, which are set to help improve diagnosis, prevention and the clinical care given to patients. Discussions on this vibrant platform not only help translate the research findings into diagnostic tools, guidelines, best practices, and international policies; they also raise awareness of emerging healthcare challenges.
The congress offers more than 150 oral presentations, including keynote lectures, symposia, oral sessions, educational workshops and meet-the-experts session as well as more than 2,000 poster presentations. The event also provides mini-oral e-poster presentations. Posters are presented as printed posters, but also on e-poster viewing stations, where visitors can scroll through abstracts presented as papers.
The main topics are strategies to detect and tackle antimicrobial resistance in various settings, approaches for prevention involving vaccines and infection control as well as descriptions of novel diagnostic technologies. The most popular sessions include lectures by winners of the ESCMID Award for Excellence and the Young Investigator Awards, as well as oral presentations on ground-breaking research approaches and findings, and the late-breaking abstracts.
The keynote speeches include presentations on innovative approaches to vaccines; the microbiome and tuberculosis therapies; lectures on how non-human antibiotics affect public health; and an economic perspective on antimicrobial resistance.

This year, the ECCMID Programme Committee has decided to offer two special tracks for the late-breaking abstract sessions, focused on two topics, requiring a coordinated response from infection specialists across all disciplines.
The first topic is refugee and migrant health. The thousands of people who are currently migrating challenge public health systems in transition and host countries. Clinicians and public health specialists need to develop strategies for the screening, the prevention, and the treatment of infectious diseases some of which were largely eradicated in Europe are now gradually being reintroduced.
The second focus of the late-breaking abstracts is on emerging colistin resistance. Reports about the emergence of plasmid-borne resistance to this last-resort antibiotic have reached us from China, Canada, the UK and most countries in continental Europe.

Hala Audi, head of the UK government review on antimicrobial resistance (AMR review) will examine not only the long-term consequences of increasing antibiotic resistance in terms of healthcare, but also its economic cost. If the present situation fails to improve, the impact could be as high as ten million lives lost every year and €90 trillion in lost productivity by 2050. Hala Audi will present her findings on how we can address this, and describe new financial models, which may be necessary to start developing newer classes of antibiotics.
Another keynote session by Prof. Lance B. Price of George Washington University will address how the use of antibiotics in animal food production is significantly contributing to antimicrobial resistance. Notably, he is pioneering the use of genomic epidemiology to understand how the misuse of antibiotics in animal feed affects public health. Prof. Price found that by analysing the genomes of bacteria – in human and animals – one is able to trace strains of antibiotic-resistant pathogens to industrial livestock productions. In light of this association,  it is alarming that many companies are still using antibiotics to prevent infection spread – what is not clear, is how endemic this use is and to what extent antibiotic use can be minimized and avoided in livestock production.

In terms of viral infections, experts at the congress will evaluate HIV and hepatitis C treatments in several sessions. At the same time, researchers will present results on emerging infections including those caused by the Zika virus. The problem with the current outbreak of the Zika virus is that we do not yet have any definitive evidence on how it is affecting their hosts – particularly on its potential link to microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome – or on how this outbreak is different from previous outbreaks, and most crucially of all, on how to prevent transmission. Recent reports from the U.S. have indicated that the virus may be transmitted sexually – yet only a few weeks ago the CDC was stating this as ‘only a theoretical risk’. It is important that infectious disease specialists get together and discuss how to best tackle outbreaks of emerging or re-emerging infectious diseases. ECCMID offers an interdisciplinary platform for these debates.