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Published: 16 September 2019

ASM2019 report

Stephen Kidd

The local organising committee and the ASM Executive were very pleased to be able to hold the Australian Society for Microbiology (ASM) Annual: National Scientific Meeting and trade exhibition (ASM2019), in Adelaide and held at the Adelaide Convention Centre (ACC).

There was a diverse and stimulating scientific program with leading microbiologists from around Australia and the rest of the world presenting an exciting array of science, research and the advances in the field of microbiology. There was an overarching theme of Humanitarian Development and Solutions and a wonderful social program to encourage discussion and interaction.

We kicked-off the conference on Sunday with a public lecture by Wendy Jackson and Hilda Zoleveke from the Pacific Region Infectious Disease Association PRIDA – empower, grow, sustain). This was a great talk outlining the history and work of PRIDA and the important work they do in the neglected areas of infectious disease including bacteriology, sepsis, other life-threatening infections and then hospital infection prevention. The importance and impact of seemingly simple but vital work and education in these remote areas was obvious and enlightening. The work they are doing goes into many areas and remote sites across the Pacific Region including Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Timor Leste and the Marshall Islands. Professor Tilman Ruff gave an inspiring Rubbo Oration (on Tuesday). He has a broad portfolio of amazing professional and personal activities; and his work has had an enormous impact in humanitarian development. He is an infectious disease and public health physician and has major roles in international organisations functioning for immunization, public health, nuclear disarmament and peace. He helped establish the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and was its founding chair. ICAN was the recipient of the 2017 Nobel Prize for Peace.

Likewise, Dr Alan Landay, from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago (USA) talked about his research into HIV/AIDS and his part in the AIDS Clinical Trials Group and as an advisor to UN (United Nations) on AIDS and HIV and Aging. He presented research he has been at the forefront of in developing and providing an understanding of the role of immune activation in diseases related to aging in the HIV population. Intriguingly, there was some new research that was presented showing the links of the microbiota on HIV/AIDS disease progression. Indeed, there was a large number of talks presented at ASM2019 that showed important data reflecting the developments in our understanding of the role of the microbiome and pathology, and indeed, the role of the microbiome and antimicrobial resistance and tolerance. Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL) annually provide direct support for the Bazeley Oration at the ASM 2019: we were pleased to have the Bazeley Oration given by Professor Luigina Romani. She is internationally recognized in the area of antifungal immunity. She presented some wonderful results on anti-fungal therapies but further to this, the role of the bacterial microbiota in mucosal homeostatsis and the function of metabolites in maintaining protection against pathogenic fungi. We were lucky to hear further on fungal infections (in plants) from Professor Sarah Gurr. Her interests in crop diseases, with particular emphasis on fungal infestations and in their global movement and control, highlighted the impact in modelling the rise and re-emergence of diseases in the global food supply.

Further to our understanding of infectious diseases, how they spread and how we treat these diseases, a global concern is the increasing number of infections that are resistant to antimicrobials and antibiotic resistance in particular. The Snowdon lecture was given by Dr Marnie L. Peterson (USA), an expert in antibiotic resistance, antimicrobial stewardship, experimental therapeutics, and microbial pathogenesis. Marnie provided a great platform for understanding the increase in antibiotic resistance, the global importance of monitoring the rise of resistance in infectious diseases and gave some case studies that showed the impact of research and development into new antimicrobial drugs.

Tuberculosis (TB) remains a major, global public health and infectious disease problem, particularly in developing countries, where in many parts it is endemic. Globally, almost 1 million people die from TB every year. Fittingly the conference was concluded by Professor Miguel Viveiros (from the Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropical da Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal) with a wonderful talk on TB and antimicrobial resistance mechanisms.

Throughout the conference we had great environments to interact with each and with further science (in the poster sessions), and during the social events. We are proud to have hosted such a wonderful conference – the scientific program and the exciting social events. We especially thank all our sponsors of ASM 2019: they are providing essential and generous support.

Finally, the ongoing quality of ASM National Conferences is the end result of the effort of the ASM Executive (in particular, we acknowledge Dena Lyras, Cheryl Power and Kate Seib) as well as the Local Organising Committee members: Stephen Kidd (Chair), Chris Ossowicz (Deputy Chair), Peter Zilm (Scientific Program Chair), Paul Sideris, Stephanie Lamont-Fredrich (Social), Laura Weyrich, Tania Veltman, Haig Henry, Gianny Scoleri, Alexandra Tikhomirova, Katarina Richter, Nicky Thomas, Darren Trott, Mohammed Alsharifi, Gupta Vadakattu and Tania Veltman. We would also like to thank ASN Events (especially Kara Taglieri, the ASM National Office Manager) for their work in organising this conference.

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