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Symposium on Infectious Diseases: Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases - how prepared are we for a global threat?

Location: Munich, Germany

Date: 02.03.2013

Topics and Speakers

  • Emergence of infectious disease: a global perspective – Prof. Dr. Thomas Loescher, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich, Germany

Prof. Loescher started the symposium with his overview of emerging infectious diseases and successfully created a platform for all of the subsequent speakers. After describing in detail the emergence of HIV, he highlighted the history and emergence of influenza virus, Marburg, Ebola, Dengue fever, Chikungunya and SARS. Contributing factors to emergence and re-emergence of diseases include poverty, weak health systems, crisis, war, disasters, environmental changes, lifestyle changes, medical and scientific progresses. With more than 1 billion international travels currently, infectious agents and their vectors travel at high speed and can span over the continents rapidly. Control of these infectious diseases requires knowledge of the ecology and epidemiology of pathogens, their vectors and reservoirs and exposed population.

  • Novel diagnostics in infectious disease– Dr. Sheila A Peel, Chief, HIV Diagnostics Laboratory, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, HIV Diagnostics and Reference Laboratory, USA

Dr. Peel’s talk focused on diagnostics on infectious disease with an emphasis on the role of point of care devices in the clinical setting.  After reviewing definitions of diagnostics, point of care and the ASSURED criteria by the World Health Organization, the current status of HIV rapid testing and TB diagnostics were reviewed in detail. Lastly, Dr. Peel revealed some of the challenges to implementation of new diagnostic tests, especially in the developing world and stressed the importance of operational research for deployment of new tests.

  • Disease surveillance for epidemic preparedness– Prof. Dr. Jan C Semenza, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Stockholm, Sweden

Dr. Semenza started his talk by focusing on rapid global changes and outlined expectations that the conditions favorable to the transmission of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) will be created and will have an impact in Europe. In this context of emerging infectious disease, Europe is considered a “hotspot”. This is due to three main drivers including social, demographic and public health system factors which are related to migration and globalization. Based on the drivers, the most plausible infectious disease scenarios were given and an argument was made for deployment of an early warning system.

  • Dynamics of influenza virus-a focus on the next pandemic– Prof. Dr. Josef Eberle, Institute for Hygiene and Medical Microbiology, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich, Germany

Prof Eberle introduced the influenza virus starting from the pandemic of 1918 to 1920 where about 20-40 million people (30% of the world population) are esteemed to have died acutely from the illness. He discussed further the pathology and structure of the influenza A virus emphasizing on the Hemagglutinin and Neuraminidase, 2 glycoproteins that undergo point mutations and reassortment to alter the genetic make of the virus and thus pave the way for possible pandemics. He explained the main challenges of influenza which include high case fatality rates in pandemics, increased risk of seasonal infection and continuous evolution through point mutations. He concluded with possible suggestions on how best to deal with seasonal epidemics and strategies on prevention and treatment of the influenza virus.

  • Infectious disease surveillance: the Ugandan experience – Prof. Fred Wabwire-Mangen, Makerere University School of Public Health, Kampala, Uganda

This topic presented a practical experience on the burden of the disease emanating directly from the vectors. The presentation focused on the mitigation strategies put in place by the Ugandan government. The “One-health” strategy implemented in the influenza surveillance program involves various sectors of the government coming together to conduct research and report findings. In the case of Uganda, the arms include the Makerere University School of Public Health, government ministry of health, wild life authority, and national museums among others whose focus is to conduct influenza epidemic surveillance. This strategy was reported to have worked well in mitigating any possible influenza epidemic in Uganda.

  • Challenges in vaccine development -an experience with Malaria vaccine development – Dr. Odile Leroy, Executive Director, European Vaccine Initiative, Heidelberg, Germany

Dr Leroy began her presentation with a history of vaccine development dating back to 1942 through the roadmap developed in 2006. The process of developing malaria vaccines includes preclinical feasibility studies, translational projects and use of vaccine candidates. So far, 105 clinical trials exploring a total of 12 candidates have been implemented. The obstacles are lack of an immune correlate of protection, various stages of life cycle, mutations during mitotic reproduction in the haploid liver and blood stages, genetic recombination during the diploid sexual reproductive stages in the mosquito, and extensive genetic diversity.

  • Bioterrosim-an emerging threat to infection control– Lt Col. MC Dr. Gerhard Dobler, Institute of Microbiology of the Bundeswehr, Munich, Germany

Dr. Dobler started his talk by defining bioterrorist weapons (BW) and gave an overview of the historic bioterrorism examples.  Presently, there are less than a dozen countries that have BW.  BW is the cheapest weapon if one compares the amount of morbidity and mortality it can cause as compared to the cost of development. BW is categorized according to the 1. “Dirty Dozen” 2. SIBRCA and 3. CDC classification.  Control and surveillance programs are critically important in controlling BW.  Presently the world faces danger from re-merging viral diseases; therefore it is important to have strong surveillance systems.


Detailed Program (PDF 85,19 KB)

Symposium Poster (PDF 245 KB)