Kate Johnson

August 27, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC — The Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) is always an international affair, with about half of attendees coming from outside of the United States.

This year, when delegates gather in the nation's capital from September 5 to 9, they'll take a whirlwind trip around the world, exploring Ebola in Africa (abstract K-1858a), Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase–producing bacteria in Brazil (abstract C-080), pertussis in Argentina (abstract I-651), and tropical diseases in New York City (abstract P-1951).

With Ebola making daily headlines around the globe, conference organizers had a last-minute scramble to find much sought-after experts, said ICAAC program committee vice-chair Robin Patel, MD, from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, in Rochester, Minnesota.

"We made a special effort to change the program to highlight Ebola in ways we hadn't originally planned because, although Ebola is not new, what's going on is exceptional," Dr. Patel told Medscape Medical News. "We deal with new emerging organisms, and it's important to understand that this is the group of people who come up with strategies to deal with them."

Several last-minute talks on the Ebola virus have been added to a session on transmission of viral pathogens in the healthcare setting. Aneesh Mehta, MD, from Emory University in Atlanta will discuss managing Ebola patients in developed countries (abstract K-1858b). Barbara Knust, DVM, MPH, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will speak about the response to the outbreak in West Africa (abstract K-1858a).

Gary Kobinger, PhD, chief of special pathogens at Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, Manitoba, has just been added as the third speaker, and will discuss the West African response from a diagnostic, scientific, and humanitarian perspective (abstract V-1303a).

Standing-Room Only

"This is a last-minute addition and the room isn't as big as some of the others, so we're expecting standing-room only and will have an overflow room ready," said Alexi Thomas, a spokesperson for the American Society for Microbiology, which organizes ICAAC.

Infectious diseases, antimicrobial agents, and resistance are some of the other main topics on the program. "There are a lot of changes going on in infectious diseases, and antimicrobial resistance is a huge and growing worldwide problem that we're dealing with in clinical practice," said Dr. Patel.

The keynote lecture, delivered by John Rex, MD, from AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals in Waltham, Massachusetts, will feature an overview of resistance, both antibacterial and antifungal.

"New antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, and antiviral agents are needed, but over the past several years, there have been few new drugs developed as anti-infectives," said Dr. Patel. However, the US Food and Drug Administration recently approved dalbavancin, tedizolid, and oritavancin.

The ICAAC Award Lecture, entitled Beta-Lactamases: Ubiquitous and Formidable, will be delivered by Karen Bush, PhD, from Indiana University in Bloomington. "She is an expert on the topic and has devoted her life to studying beta-lactamases," said Dr. Patel. "Beta-lactamases are a primary reason we're in a crisis as far as resistance, so this promises to be an important address."

There will be a break from the discouraging picture of antibiotic resistance with 2 lectures focusing on advances in HIV to commemorate the 30th year of the HIV/AIDS fight.

Advances in HIV

In the Cubist-ICAAC Award Lecture, Mark Wainberg, PhD, a pioneer in the field from the McGill University AIDS Centre in Montreal, will discuss ending the HIV epidemic. And Constance Benson, MD, from the University of California at San Diego, will deliver the ICAAC Special Address, entitled 30 Years of HIV/AIDS: Past, Present and Future Perfect.

 
HIV is a great example of an infection in which we've made tremendous strides.
 

"HIV is a great example of an infection in which we've made tremendous strides," noted Dr. Patel. "It has evolved from being a death sentence to being treatable and manageable. This is a huge success story in terms of drug development, understanding pathogenesis, and changing clinical practice."

There was also a special effort by ICAAC organizers to highlight immunization this year, explained Dr. Patel. For example, pertussis immunization will be featured in a number of posters and slide sessions.

"We're seeing more cases of pertussis today than we have in the recent past, and this is becoming an increasing challenge in clinical practice," she said.

"In general, we are seeing more patients who are not being vaccinated," she noted. This is leading to a resurgence in vaccine-preventable diseases, said Dr. Patel, but the story with the pertussis vaccine has an added twist — there have been changes in the types of vaccine used, as well as in the microorganism itself and potentially its response to the vaccine.

Dr. Patel is a consultant for Thermo Fisher, St. Jude, and Curetis; works on evaluations for Bruker, bioMérieux, Abbott, Nanosphere, BioFire, Siemens, and BD; has received grant and research support from Astellas, Tornier, Pocared, Pradama, Pfizer, 3M, BioFire, Curetis, and nanoMR; has patents on Bordetella pertussis/parapertussis PCR, a method and apparatus for device sonication, and an anti-biofilm substance; receives royalties from Up-to-Date; and receives an editor's stipend from the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

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