Friday, 28 December 2012

Microbe management in CF

Pseudomonas bacteria -
a hot topic at the recent
CF Microbiology
Consortium meeting
From 2005-2008, the CF Trust funded the development of the UK CF Microbiology Consortium to bring together research activity from four universities (University of Liverpool, Queens University Belfast, University of Edinburgh and University of Cardiff). The funding has ended, but the Consortium continues to meet annually to promote better understanding of CF microbiology and its third annual meeting was recently held in Liverpool. Professor Craig Winstanley and Dr Jo Fothergill of the University of Liverpool give an insight into what these issues are.

The third annual meeting of the UK Cystic Fibrosis Consortium brought together over 80 CF researchers and clinicians from throughout the UK. There were 16 presentations and lively discussion around each of the four major themes addressed (diversity and adaptation, pathogenicity, therapeutics and epidemiology).

The opening session, chaired by Dr Diana Bilton (Royal Brompton Hospital) and Professor Stuart Elborn (University of Belfast) emphasised the diversity of microbes in the CF lung, and how disease-causing bacteria adapt to the CF lung environment. A better understanding of these issues could lead to novel approaches to therapy. There are many things can influence bacterial communities in the lungs. For example, Dr Will Flight (Manchester Adult CF Centre) spoke about the impact of respiratory viruses on the make-up of the bacterial community. Because it is difficult to do these studies in patients, model environments that resemble the CF lung can be used. Damian Rivett (Kings College Hospital) and Dr Chloe James (University of Liverpool) both described studies using model systems to study bacterial communities. The focus of Dr Volker Behrends’ (Imperial School of Medicine) talk was the metabolic adaptations of the bacteria (the way that bacteria alter their metabolism).

In the second session, chaired by Professor John Govan (University of Edinburgh) and Professor Eshwar Mahenthiralingam (Cardiff University), various aspects of pathogenicity (how micro-organisms cause disease) were discussed. Megan Jackson (Queen’s University Belfast) talked about the role of obligate anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that cannot survive in the presence of oxygen) and Ian Passmore (University of Cambridge) presented work on Pseudomonas aeruginosa type III secretion systems and biofilm formation (two important mechanisms contributing to how Pseudomonas causes damage). Sonali Singh (University of Nottingham) focused on host responses (such as the immune system), and the role of an immune system cytokine that can contribute to inflammatory responses, IL-17. The session ended with a talk by Dr Cristobal Mujica Tronconso, who described the role of two cell wall enzymes in Burkholderia cenocepacia.

In a session on therapeutics (treatments for infection), chaired by Professor Miguel Camara (Nottingham) and Dr Jane Davies (Imperial College, London), we heard talks about novel therapeutic targets (bacterial structures or activities that we can design drugs against) from Dr Matthew Robinson (University of Exeter) and Dr James Lazenby (Nottingham), whilst Dr Nick Tucker (University of Strathclyde) described a new group of compounds with potential as anti-Pseudomonas agents. Dr Rishi Pabary (Imperial College, London and Royal Brompton Hospital) presented a study where phage therapy (the use of viruses to attack bacteria) was used against P. aeruginosa in a rodent model.

In the final session, chaired by Dr Juliet Foweraker (Papworth Hospital) and Dr Martin Walshaw (Liverpool Heart and Chest), issues relating to epidemiology (patterns in populations) were discussed. Jane Turton (Health Protection Agency) presented an overview of P. aeruginosa genotypes infecting UK CF patients and Richard Barton (Leeds General Infirmary) talked about the epidemiology of Aspergillus in cystic fibrosis. The growing threat of non-tuberculous mycobacteria was addressed in the presentation of Dr Dorothy Grogono (University of Cambridge). The final presentation, by Dr Laura Thomas (Cardiff University), discussed approaches to testing preservatives with activity against pathogens important in cystic fibrosis.

In addition to the short talks, there were 16 posters presented at the meeting, covering a range of topics. This growing meeting provides a platform for researchers to present and discuss their ideas. As well as demonstrating the breadth and depth of expertise in the area of CF microbiology in the UK, it also highlights a real enthusiasm and willingness to work together to provide high quality research and practical solutions in this important area.

The meeting was sponsored by Forest Laboratories Inc.

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