Takeaways from ECCMID 2019: Part 1

April 29, 2019

Experts from the fields of microbiology and infectious disease share their biggest takeaways and highlights from ECCMID 2019.

We sat down with several experts to learn more about their research and presentations and asked them to share what they’re taking home from ECCMID 2019. Here’s what they said:

Interview transcript (modified slightly for readability):

Ben Berkhout, PhD: Well, you know the best thing about this meeting is, I'm more a basic virologist, and it's always good to meet people from the disciplines around it because it gives a broader perspective. So, I got some very, very great questions. You know, it's always a fine line between naive questions and actually very good questions, so that so that was that was nice.

Nicole Cotroneo, BS: I'm excited to see more attention being put on NTM infections, or non-tuberculous mycobacteria. So, these are ubiquitous environmental organisms that don't typically cause infection but when they do it's very, very difficult for patients. There's a lot of wide-open science there, blue sky science, where people need to figure out how to evaluate therapeutics preclinically and then develop the regulatory pathways to translate those into the clinic. I'm seeing more attention on that and we're very excited and interested in this.

Ashraf Ibrahim, PhD: I like immunotherapy a lot because I believe that immunotherapy is the future because antibiotics are bound to develop resistance in the long run. So, I attended yesterday very nice session whereby there were actually monoclonal antibody treatment against carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae. Then, this morning I also attended a very nice session which was also about immunotherapies against infectious disease, mainly targeting the virus infections, but it included several immunotherapies included CAR-T cells, monoclonal antibodies and basically [focused on] boosting the immune system and the host, so focusing on the host rather than focusing on the microbes so these are the 2 really nice presentations that I liked a lot.

Elizabeth Hirsch, PharmD: I've been excited to see more data from the MERINO trial and seeing some of the MIC see values and some of the outcomes-based MIC, so it's been interesting to see more of that data being released.

Ignacio Martin-Loeches, MD, PhD: To me, I think the multidisciplinary approach to the patient [is the highlight]. I think that 1 of the things is that I am very lucky to be attending not only critical care conferences, but also respiratory care conferences and ID conferences. I've seen that in the past it was like ID conference for ID people, critical care conferences for critical care people, and respiratory conference for respiratory physicians.

So, what I think that is the beauty of this conference is in general and this in particular is that I have realized that a number of other non-ID primary specialties or clinical microbiology is increasing, and I think that this is going to become a beautiful thing, with increasing knowledge of the patient. Because we are going to all of us we are dealing with the same patient, but we are going to come from different angles and I think that the success is to try to cover what the other cannot see. So, I think that this teamwork with different specialties in my opinion is the most interesting part.

Madeline King, PharmD: I've been to a lot of great sessions and I've seen a lot of really good posters. Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk to the people next to me that were presenting posters and our whole row was kind of stewardship type things and honestly the highlight of the conference for me is meeting new people. So, the benefit of this being an international conference is meeting people that I never would have met in any other realm of life really. So, getting to talk to those people and learn about what they're doing at their institutions what matters to them.

I was talking to someone yesterday, specifically about my poster on aztreonam use — this person was like we don't even have aztreonam in our country, it's not available maybe we should be using it, when we don't even have access to it. And someone on the other side of me is saying we use it as a carbapenem sparing agent because we don't have a lot of resistance to it. So, it's just really cool to hear those things and get a better understanding of like what everybody else is doing because you kind of get stuck in your own little bubble thinking, ‘oh yeah, aztreonam is bad for everybody,’ as an example and then you talk to other people and you're like oh actually you know there may be indications for it, and maybe we should learn a little more about kind of the other settings that people are using it in.

Leslie Tari, PhD: Thus far, there was a Roche-sponsored symposium on the flu and it provided a great historical perspective on flu pandemics throughout modern history and also had a lot of keen insights. There were some KOLs there that provided a lot of key insights on translational preclinical models in ferrets that are useful for moving new agents forward.

Mélanie Mahoney: I really enjoyed the debate yesterday about the rapid diagnostics for upper respiratory infections. It's interesting to hear both sides and see a lot of passion come out of that debate.

Corrine Maurice, PhD: I think so obviously the session I was in that was really focused on the gut microbiota was obviously a highlight. There were really good talks from other researchers showing the implication of the gut microbiota in everything that's immuno- and cancer therapy and there was this really good talk basically putting forward the fact that knowing who's there in the gut only provides us with a very limited subset of answers and we should really be focusing on what these microorganisms are doing.

At the end of the day it's really the virtual metabolites and the compounds that these picture-producing that have a role on our health. These compounds can travel across the body and that could explain like the off-target effects from the gut to other systems. So, that was a really good highlight and then obviously yesterday there was a phage therapy session which was really exciting. There was a really good overview of the history of phage therapy. Phages have been discovered for hundreds of years now and they are successfully being used in other countries again some specific virtual pathogens. So, putting that forward to say that, ‘well it's actually a therapy that we really should be focusing on.’ and in other cases showing the promise. And, there was a good reality check with everything that was in terms of regulations because we as researchers we want to actually provide our tools to the physicians but I would say the vast majority of us don't really think about the regulations or how it can be transferred to society, and that that talk was really a good reality check into like how would we actually call this therapy and apply it.

Minh-Hong Nguyen, MD: So, when I go to the conference there are 2 things that I have in mind. No 1 is a looking at diagnostics, because I know that early diagnosis improves our patients’ outcomes. Second is the description and follow-up update on the new agents that are on the pipeline and I'm very happy to say that they are at least 5 different news antifungal agents in the pipeline and being tested in clinical trials.

Lastly, this meeting also is a very rich and in pathogenesis research and I think it's very important for us to understand the disease causing to be able to come up with new diagnostics including with where to prevent the disease.

Check out part 2 of our ECCMID highlight reel.