Highlights from the top global congress of clinical microbiology and infectious diseases in the world - the 29th ECCMID in Amsterdam.

Piotr Kochan

What comes to mind when asked about Holland? Definitely the windmills (nowadays it's a whole lot of wind turbines), many dykes and water canals with grazing animals. And the people - warm and hospitable. Also some of the best cheese in the world, and last but not least, spectacular hydrotechnical constructions and modern architecture, e.g. in Rotterdam (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Spectacular architecture, Rotterdam.
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What comes to mind when asked about the city of Amsterdam? Wonderful museums, many canals and bridges and delicious fish sandwiches. On top of that one can witness unusual and unique nightlife – with legal marihuana and prostitution in the Red Light District. These are the things that so many tourists come to see in the city each year.

Well, this year it was something more, at least for the medical doctors and researchers working in the field of pathogens. The largest congress of infectiology in the world - namely the 29th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) once again took place in the Netherlands, this year from April 13-16 (Fig. 2-4).

Figure 2. RAI Amsterdam–venue of ECCMID.
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Figure 3. Entrance to ECCMID 2019.
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Figure 4. ESCMID Village during the 29th ECCMID.
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This was in fact the second time that the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID) organized the congress in Amsterdam in recent years. In 2016, the 26th ECCMID that was supposed to take place in Istanbul, Turkey, was moved to Amsterdam, due to safety concerns. The final 2019 programme consisted of 132 symposia selected out of 384 proposals. The topics covered included the "big three" (HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria), viral hepatitis, antimicrobial resistance, new diagnostics, new anti-infective agents, the standards of susceptibility testing, antimicrobial stewardship, vaccines, hospital infections and infection control, pathogenesis and host-microbiota interactions, medical ethics, migration medicine, vaccine/drug shortages, emerging infections and other vital health issues. 5 311 regular abstracts and 142 late-breaker abstracts were submitted. Our institution presented several posters, including the ESCMID Collaborative Centre no. 101 poster in the ESCMID Village (Fig. 5).

Figure 5. Cracow’s ESCMID Collaborative Centre no. 101 poster in ESCMID Village.
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As always, owing to my professional background as a medical doctor working in microbiology, I was very excited to attend this huge event. Owing to its immensity, I was eager to meet and listen to ESCMID authorities who always recommend their top choices when it comes to sessions and speakers, and this year I wasn't disappointed either – the President's Press Conference took place right on the first day of the event. Prof. Jesús Rodríguez-Baño, the President of ESCMID was the first to speak, welcoming all press members (Fig. 6).

Figure 6. Press Conference during ECCMID 2019 recorded on Saturday, April 13, 2019. ESCMID President, Prof. Jesús Rodríguez-Baño opened the session welcoming all press members and talking briefly about the Society. You may see the films on the official WJOMI YouTube channel or directly using the link: https://youtu.be/EZmWhCAYXjU
[please click on the image to watch the film]

Prof. Winfried Kern, ECCMID Programme Director, spoke next, summing up the congress participants, abstract numbers and sessions. Then it was time for the top choices of topics from all four speakers, and besides the two distinguished professors already listed, two more speakers gave their choices, including Prof. Mario Poljak, ESCMID Immediate Past President and Publications Officer, as well as Prof. Jacob Moran-Gilad, ECCMID Deputy Programme Director (Fig. 7-9). The Press Conference was concluded with a discussion and I managed to pose one question to the presenters in the end, asking them how do they feel about artificial intelligence, which is finding its way to microbiology, especially from the point of view of potential risks (Fig. 10). You may see the recordings of the press conference in Figures 6-10.

Figure 7. Prof. Mario Poljak talking about his top choices of topics (left). On the right is current ESCMID President - Prof. Jesús Rodríguez-Baño. The full recording is available on the official WJOMI YouTube channel or directly using the link: https://youtu.be/90MELCdHA_o
[please click on the image to watch the film]

Figure 8. Prof. Jacob Moran-Gilad talking about his selections from the ECCMID programme. You may see the full recording on the official WJOMI YouTube channel or directly using the link below: https://youtu.be/BFZTQ3WkURk
[please click on the image to watch the film]

Figure 9. Prof. Winfried Kern listing his favourites. Direct link to the film on WJOMI channel: https://youtu.be/9ibGEkAprHw
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Figure 10. ESCMID President talking about ESCMID Awards. Link to the film on WJOMI channel: https://youtu.be/zbIBk4FqaPY
[please click on the image to watch the film]

I especially appreciated some of the press releases sent to us before the press conferences by Tony Kirby from ECCMID Media Relations, with interesting titles and abstracts (in brackets I listed the first author and the full title of the official ECCMID abstract or reference to the original publication):
  • Privacy curtains used in healthcare worldwide are a potential source of drug-resistant bacteria transmission to patients (Kristen Gibson et al. Privacy curtain contamination in six post-acute care facilities in Michigan);
  • Study suggests the majority of tourniquets used in medical procedures are contaminated (Vânia Oliveira et al. Microbiological contamination of tourniquets used during peripheral venipuncture: a scoping review);
  • Immune responses in Ebola survivors 2 years after infection provide clues for vaccine development (Aurelie Wiedemann et al. Long-lasting Ebola-specific T-cell immunity in Guinean Ebola survivors);
  • Antibiotics legitimately available in over-counter throat medications could contribute to increased antibiotic resistance (Rebecca Westgate et al. Understanding the risk of emerging bacterial resistance to topical antibiotics);
  • UK study shows most patients with suspected urinary tract infection and treated with antibiotics actually lack evidence of this infection (Laura Shallcross et al. Diagnosing urinary tract infection syndromes in the emergency department: a cohort study using electronic health records);
  • Mode of delivery alters infants' gut microbiota and this may impact respiratory health in first year of life (Marta Reyman et al. Impact of delivery mode-associated gut microbiota dynamics on health in the first year of life);
  • Microbiome of baby's first stool is associated with overweight at age 3 years (Katja Korpela et al. Impact of early microbiome and antibiotic exposure on growth and weight gain: a prospective cohort study);
  • High prevalence of healthcare-associated infections and low testing rates found in European hospitals and long-term care facilities (Peter Kinross et al. Prevalence of healthcare-associated infections in acute care hospitals and long-term care facilities in Europe, 2016-2017: results from two point prevalence surveys);
  • Study underlines large variation in patient mortality associated with different bloodstream infections (Liya Lomsadze et al. In-hospital mortality varies by organism in patients with bloodstream infections in a large New York health system);
  • Zinc oxide reduces body odour caused by bacteria and aids wound healing (Khaled Saoud Ali Ghathian et al. Zinc oxide reduces armpit malodour: a randomized, double-blind trial in healthy volunteers);
  • European experts sound alarm as mosquito and tick-borne diseases set to flourish in warmer climate (Jan C. Semenza, Jonathan E. Suk. Vector-borne diseases and climate change: a European perspective. FEMS Microbiology Letters 2018; 365:1-9, Giovanni Rezza. Dengue and chikungunya: long-distance spread and outbreaks in naı ̈ve areas. Pathogens and Global Health 2014; 108:349-55);
  • Ecological study identifies potential association between antimicrobial resistance and climate change (Hani Kaba et al. Novel association between antimicrobial resistance and climatic factors in Europe: a 30-country observational study).
  • Petting zoos could potentially transmit highly virulent drug resistant bacteria to visitors (Anat Shnaiderman-Torban et al. Prevalence, molecular epidemiology and risk factors for extended-spectrum beta-lactamase and AmpC-producing Enterobacteriaceae colonisation among animals in petting zoos: a zoonotic concern?);
  • UK public health experts urge people to seek prompt medical advice if they suspect rabies exposure (Kevin E. Brown, Katherine Russell. Trends in rabies post-exposure treatment in England, 2001-2018. Lynsey Goodwin et al. A three year retrospective review of cases requiring rabies post-exposure treatment administration from a large regional PHE virology laboratory in Manchester, UK.);
  • Staying in a hotel during travel to tropical regions is associated with contracting drug-resistant bacteria, with younger travellers aged 20-30 years at highest risk (Lynn Meurs et al. Does staying in a hotel increase the risk of colonisation with extended-spectrum beta-lactamase producing Enterobacteriaceae during intercontinental travel? A cohort study among German travellers (2016-2017));
  • National handwashing campaign reduces incidence of Staphylococcus aureus infection in Australia's hospitals (Lindsay Grayson et al. Effects of the Australian National Hand Hygiene Initiative after 8 years on infection control practices, health-care worker education, and clinical outcomes: a longitudinal study. Lancet Infect Dis 2018; 18:1269-77.)
  • Study finds low hand hygiene compliance on ICUs (Nai-Chung Chang et al. Hand hygiene and the sequence of patient care);
  • Applying hand rub with three steps for 15 seconds as effective at reducing bacteria as WHO-recommended 6 steps for 30 seconds (Sarah Tschudin-Sutter et al. Simplifying the WHO protocol for hand hygiene, three steps and 15 seconds: a randomized crossover trial);
  • Venezuela estimated to have had 1 million new malaria infections in 2018 (Adriana Tami et al. Unprecedented malaria epidemic in Venezuela in times of complex humanitarian health crisis: a regional menace);
  • Vaccine-preventable diseases surge in crisis-hit Venezuela (Alberto E. Paniz-Mondolfi et al. Resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases in Venezuela as a regional public health threat in the Americas. Emerg Infect Dis 2019; 25:625-32);
  • Surgical site infection rates differ by gender for certain procedures (Seven Johannes Sam Aghdassi et al. Gender-related risk factors for surgical site infections: results from 10 years of surveillance in Germany);
  • Hospital study finds substantial proportion of patients and healthcare workers shed flu virus before symptoms appear (Raphaël Tamò et al. The TransFLUas influenza transmission study in acute healthcare: attack rates, symptoms and transmission clusters);
  • Antibiotic resistance gene transmitted between pets at a UK animal hospital (Katie Hopkins et al. Identification of optrA in linezolid-resistant Enterococcus faecalis isolated from companion animals in the UK).

  • Some keynote lecture titles listed in the 2019 ECCMID programme that need to be mentioned include:
    - Biomedical prophylaxis of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections: a change of paradigm? (Jean-Michel Molina, France);
    - Excellence Award Keynote Lecture: PCVs: the first vaccines against normal nasopharyngeal microbiota constituents (Ron Dagan, Israel);
    - The spreading of health: transmission of commensal bacteria (Trevor Lawley, UK);
    - Collaborating with the innate immune system to treat antibiotic-resistant superbugs (Victor Nizet, USA);
    - Lessons for TB treatment from the zebrafish (Lalita Ramakrishnan, UK);
    - Hepatitis B therapy pipeline: how far are we from cure? (Jean-Michel Pawlotsky, France);
    - What ancient DNA studies tell us about human infection? (Eske Willerslev, Denmark);
    - Médecins Sans Frontières perspective on medical ethics in the context of emergency response (Mercedes Tatay, Switzerland).

    My reflections after the congress point to one important area. I'm under the impression that the current CM & ID revolve mostly around a common topic, which has taken the lead for many years – namely antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial stewardship – taking different forms and shapes. For the full program of the 29th ECCMID in Amsterdam and the ESCMID Congresses to follow, please visit the website eccmid.org.


    Besides of taking place in amazing settings, ESCMID is currently the world’s largest CM and ID congress and ECCMID 2019 has broken all records so far, with over 13 500 participants from 127 countries (Fig.11).

    Figure 11. Typical windmill of rural Holland, not very far from the city of Amsterdam.
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    In an era of growing anti-vaccination campaigns, it is vital for researchers and medical doctors to unite and present a common standpoint against some ridiculous opinions that are fuelling especially the Internet wave of people risking their lives and the lives of their children. Diseases that were once forgotten, and probably our grandparents thought of them to be extinct, are now coming back to the spotlight. So to sum up, in my opinion we should put our best knowledge to the education of the uneducated.

    Secondly, we should take a much stronger effort to look for the cure and vaccines for the incurables. Very often, I see that competition and personal career becomes the priority - but it's the good of mankind that should take precedence over any economic or other benefits.

    And third but not least, the era of antibiotic resistance is still continuing. We should put special emphasis on antimicrobial stewardship. But our efforts will be in vain if we will not put pressure on agencies and governments that run the animal production using antibiotic growth promoters (AGP), which are still used on a mass scale in many regions of the world.

    [1] Kochan P. ESCMID Collaborative Centre no. 101, Cracow, Poland. ESCMID World Poster. 29th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID), Amsterdam, April 13-16, 2019.

    Conflict of interest: none declared

    To cite this article: Kochan P. Highlights from the top global congress of clinical microbiology and infectious diseases in the world - the 29th ECCMID in Amsterdam. World J Med Images Videos Cases 2019; 4:e17-25.

    Published on: 30 April 2019

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