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TDR clinical R&D Fellows’ Conference report:

American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 60th Annual Conference

American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene

TDR clinical R&D Fellows’ Conference report by Holger Mayta

Progress report of the training:

1)    Objectives for attending this conference (1 page max)

To gain knowledge on the control and prevention of tropical infectious diseases based on immunological approaches.
To learn about the most recent studies on tropical diseases directly from researches, through conferences, oral and posters presentations.
To meet researchers and to build and strength research networks

2)    Agenda of the conference

December 3, 2011
Basic Science Pre-Meeting Course: New Approaches for Immunologic Intervention in Tropical Infectious Diseases.
December 5, 2011 Symposium: Cestodes
Symposium: Protective Immune Mechanisms in Helminth Infection
Symposium: Kinetoplastida: Epidemiology, Diagnosis and Treatment
December 7, 2011
Symposium: CYP51 As a Target for Chagas Disease Drugs
Symposium: Induction and Maintenance of Immunologic Memory to Infectious Antigens and Vaccines
Symposium: Antimicrobial Resistance and Diarrhea in South America Symposium: Leishmania Knockouts: Candidates for Live Vaccines? Plenary Session V: ASTMH President's Address and Annual Business Meeting
December 8, 2011
Scientific session: Malaria: Epidemiology - The Changing Map - vivax and falciparum
Symposium: Parasitology Molecular Diagnostics

3)    Did attendance to this conference meet the needs you originally described? Please explain your answer in either way (1 page max)

Yes, the conference met the expectations I had before attending it. The ASTMH meeting is one of the most complete meetings that one can ask for. It gathers researchers of most fields; one is expose to research using high technology as equally as those using standard techniques; those originated with high budgets as well as those developed in low income countries whit a short budget. It is always a fruitful and productive conference. It always fulfils most of the expectations that any researcher can have before attending a meeting. For me it has been always valuable, since tropical medicine comprises a huge variety of diseases; I always gain news research ideas, learn about new techniques that may be have been developed for diseases that may not even be present in my setting but that can be useful and applicable to diseases of my own interest. It is also a good place to meet new
investigators, to build new networks or just to stay in touch with old friends and strength research networks.

4)    Please highlight what was the most important/useful information you learnt during the conference (1 page max)

The pre-meeting course was a good introduction to understand some of the following sessions. I will advise to attend these basic courses they a good source of cutting edge knowledge and they are always important to meet investigators more friendly fashion and without rush.
My interest was focused in the current research in Chagas disease and to gain more knowledge in the clinical trials that are currently going on. There are at least four trials today, which is really beneficial for the large amount of affected individuals around the world.
Vaccines for neglected diseases are always a hot topic for us working in tropical diseases; an interesting methodology is the use of knock out organisms which might elicit a better immunological response. A vaccine that will mimic natural infections will be probably a successful one especially for those diseases where other types of vaccines have failed.
Development of techniques that might help in the diagnosis of tropical diseases is always an interesting area to explore. No long time ago techniques were based on finding antigens or antibodies, nowadays it has been possible to sequence and type some pathogens directly from clinical specimens or at least identify them by PCR. Real time PCR has become a standard technique now but is limited because its cost. A format that tan hold 16 different targets has been developed and uses tiny amounts of reagents and sample. Reagents could be transported without a cold chain and the Polymerase that is been used is resistant to inhibition by haemoglobin, so DNA does not have to be purified.
Another important aspect of the meeting was the discussion about funding which really a challenge for anyone doing research.

5)    What ideas/recommendations did you bring back? (1 page max)

There is a consensus in recommending this meeting to everybody interested in doing research on infectious diseases. For me the highly recommended areas are the pre-meeting courses, which always are have some new cutting edge knowledge. Take advantage of oral presentations especially of those topics you are interested the most. Poster presentations it is always a good way to meet people that may be potential partners in future research projects or at least to make new friends. The career fair are have also had god information take always advantage of this part of the meeting. The main plenary session is one of the most valuables sessions It focuses tropical diseases globally and give a sense of what is going on, what needs to be corrected and what is lacking in research in tropical diseases, it is a do not miss session.
Last and not least important is preferable to book the hotel where the meeting is held it might be a little bit more expensive than the hotels around but it is worthy and has several advantages.
6)    How will you incorporate them in your research or training activities? (1 page max)

I will try to incorporate this knowledge into a research grant in collaboration with new scientists I have met in the meeting. I have met also a principal investigator of one of the studies that we are conducting overseas. Meeting him in person has improved the communication about the study. I have also get some information about the studies related to Chagas disease, some other drugs that are on the market, techniques that have being used for the diagnosis of this disease, which are in the process of being incorporated at my home institution.

7)    How could others benefit from the conference? (1 page max)

I will suggest to those ones that have not been able to personally attend the conference to explore the ASTMH webpage. The abstract has been posted and if one needs to further explore a specific topic, there is al list for contacting the investigators. Most of them are always prone to answer to research queries.

8)    Would you recommend other grantees attend this conference?

Yes, I would definitely recommend. It is a great place to get a flavour of all research activities in tropical medicine around the world.