Caravaggio is not an artist traditionally associated with Berlin, but discussion of potential causes of his death–postulated to be due to sepsis– at a recent microbiology conference held in the city–mean that sometime in future he just may be! Luckily the eventful life of the famous Italian painter was not emulated by the participants at the 23rd European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID 2013) and we, BMC Infectious Diseases included, instead enjoyed a diverse set of presentations covering the whole spectrum of infectious disease research.
The focus of many of the talks was on prevention, rather than the treatment of diseases, from Linos Vandekerckhove’s review of early initiation of HIV treatment to prevent transmission, to the debate between Didier Pittet and Marc J.M. Bonten on the most effective measure to prevent hospital-acquired infections. Even humble bed linen was investigated and found, at times, wanting in a talk by Michelle Balm discussing an outbreak of Bacillus cereuscaused by a combination of construction work and laundry practices.
The difficulties in performing studies on interventions, such as hand hygiene compliance, and the lack of data on which to test these theories was discussed and several pleas were made to remember that sometimes common sense is just as important as trial data (with reference to this systematic review on parachutes).
This year also featured more clinical parasitology, with insights into artesunate treatment for severe malaria by Peter Kremsner, and Paul Newton’s fascinating discussion on counterfeit anti-malarials (more detailed information on this can be found here). In addition, the spread of artemisinin drug resistance at the resistance hotspot at Thailand’s borders was also highlighted by François Nosten.
From parasites to viruses with a series of talks on the role, or potential role, of cytomegalovirus in a series of diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and cancer. At present much of this data is in early stages, but talks from Carlos Lumbreras on the potential link with inflammatory bowel disease, and from Cecilia Soderberg-Naucler, using data from her trials on CMV treatment in patients with glioblastoma, showed that this is an area that will continue to be investigated.
And finally back to paleomicrobiology with a report of a possible mycobacterium infection in La Doncella, a 500 year old Inca mummy found on Llullaillaco in Argentina by Angelique Corthals. Although the challenges we face in tackling infectious diseases in 2013 are different to our ancestors, it’s clear there is a long way still to go. Hopefully ECCMID2014 will continue to point us in the right direction.