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Highlights of the Annual Fall Meeting 2016

Tina M. Vellozzi. PhD, D(ABMM)

Once again, this year’s October 7, 2016 Fall Meeting at The Hotel Pennsylvania was very well attended and proved to be in the best tradition of meetings organized by our Branch. The morning program began with continental breakfast, followed by opening remarks by our Branch President, Dr. Maria Aguero-Rosenfeld, who welcomed the many attendees.

Dr. Stefano Bertuzzi, CEO of the American Society for Microbiology opened the morning session with his overview of the new and exciting educational opportunities now being provided by the ASM. Dr. Bertuzzi explained that ASM has been working to redefine itself as the go-to organization for the field of microbiology. By tapping the talent within the society and around the world, Dr. Bertuzzi hopes the ASM’s authoritative voice can be enhanced on critical issues such as new and emerging infectious diseases, antibiotic resistance, climate change, and other global problems. Dr. Bertuzzi also spoke about the importance of the human microbiome, which is a flourishing area of interest in the microbial sciences. ASM has recently partnered with the Kavli Foundation, the American Chemical Society, and the American Physical Society to award $1 million in interdisciplinary research funding to explore the microbiome and devise new tools for researchers to exploit that knowledge.

The growing concern for bacterial antimicrobial resistance and the conundrums of susceptibility testing were the topics of the next speaker, Dr. Stephen Brecher, Director of Microbiology, at the VA Boston Healthcare System in West Roxbury, MA. Dr. Brescher first discussed the human microbiome and the importance of distinguishing colonizers vs. true pathogens, so as not to prompt unnecessary susceptibility testing in patients. With the increasing threat of antibiotic resistance now reaching global crisis status, new technologies and assays could aid in antibiotic stewardship, rapid result reporting, and reduction in hospital costs. These technologies include MALDI-TOF used in conjuction with blood culture PCR, Respiratory and GI Multi-plex PCR, and whole-genome sequencing (WGS), and next-generation sequencing (NGS).

Concluding the morning session, was a talk given by Dr. Bobbi Pritt, Medical Director, of the Clinical Parasitology Lab and Co-Director of Vector-borne Diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Dr. Pritt’s presentation was entitled “Worms You Won’t Find in Your Garden!” Using very interesting clinical case examples, she highlighted some of the parasitic infections that are endemic to the U.S. as well as some parasites associated with ingestion of undercooked fish, and ways to prevent these infections. Dr. Pritt also described how her use of social media has enabled her to share valuable clinical cases in parasitology with colleagues. Check out Dr. Pritt’s short, fun, and educational cases on http://parasitewonders.blogspot.com

After a terrific morning session, everyone gathered to enjoy a delicious luncheon with friends and colleagues. A special thank you to our sponsors who have so generously supported our educational programs throughout the years. Their generous funding have made our events possible. “Thank You!” to both our Platinum Award Members: Alere, Becton Dickinson Diagnostics, BioFire Diagnostics, Inc., bioMerieux, Inc., and Roche Diagnostics Corporation and to our Gold Award Members: Abbott Molecular, AdvanDx, an OpGen Company, Beckman Coulter-Microscan, HOLOGIC, Inc., Meridian Diagnostics, Quest Diagnostics, and Theravance Biopharma.

The rapid detection of enteric pathogens was the topic of the afternoon’s first speaker, Dr. Susan Whittier, Director, Clinical Microbiology Service, Columbia University Medical Center, NYPH in Manhattan. Dr. Whittier reviewedsome of the latest clinical guidelines and algorithms in the diagnosis of enteric pathogens. Dr. Whittier pointed out that the CDC has now focused more attention on recreational water as a source of enteric diseases and their sequelae. Dr. Whittier also emphasized how enteropathogen detection continues to increase in complexity. There is therefore a need for development of better and more streamlined algorithms, as well as better testing technology. A new approach will improve patient management, avoid inappropriate antibiotic use, improve accuracy, avoid unnecessary testing, provide positive patient satisfaction and improve public health surveillance. Dr. Nancy Miller, Medical Director of Clinical Microbiology and Molecular Diagnostics at the Boston Medical Center, was the next program speaker. Using specific case examples, Dr. Miller discussed the advantages and disadvantages of using new improved technologies when faced with challenging clinical situations. She emphasized how expertise still matters despite technology, and that we are still missing items from our “tool box”. Specifically improved methods for direct pathogen detection, accurate rapid profiling of polymicrobial infections, standardized inter-laboratory database sharing, and affordable user-friendly systems. The afternoon session then concluded with an excellent talk given by Dr. Audrey Schuetz, Senior Associate Consultant, Dept. of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN entitled “New Breakpoints, New Drugs, New Guidelines in the Mycology laboratory”. Dr. Schuetz summarized the clinical uses of Isavuconazole, the first new antifungal to be marketed in over 10 years! This new azole drug is water soluble, and thus has less nephrotoxicity issues for patients. It also has broad spectrum activity against moulds and yeasts and has excellent oral bioavailability with fewer drug-drug interactions. Dr. Schuetz also reviewed the new CAP mycology checklist items and noted some of the improvements made in the CLSI guidelines concerning antifungal susceptibility testing, such as having more clinically accurate breakpoints for interpretation of susceptibility results.

In conclusion, the 2016 Fall Meeting succeeded in delivering a memorable program with very relevant and enlightening topics. It also afforded all of us the opportunity to chat and enjoy the company of friends and colleagues. Thanks to everyone who made this meeting such a great success.