The SGMs 161st meeting will be held at the University of Edinburgh, 3-6 September 2007. The plenary session is entitled Food, fluids, fingers, faeces and flies: food and waterborne pathogens and includes some fascinating presentations.
Hepatitis E virus (HEV), which can be fatal, was thought to be confined to China, India and developing countries but scientists in the Netherlands have found that people in European countries are contracting the virus from pork. It is one of few viruses that can be transmitted directly from the animal to humans through food. Doctors rarely test for HEV and it is estimated that diagnosis rates in Europe are only 13%.
And its not just pork thats being studied. There has been a rise in year-round consumption of lettuce, which is coupled with a rise in the difficulty of keeping it pathogen-free. Although processing and packaging were suspected as sources of contamination, US scientists have shown that at least some cases of food poisoning are due to contamination prior to harvesting. Complex environmental factors make this very difficult to control.
Cutting-edge research will also be revealed in the session Anaerobe 2007: Changing perceptions and patterns of anaerobic infection. Hospital superbug C. difficile has a coat of armour that can self-assemble even when its taken off the bacterium. The protein coat has a regular shape and joins together itself. This could give scientists at Imperial College London a way of fighting the superbug, by identifying a glitch in the armour. It even has commercial applications in nanotechnology.
Anaerobes also have clinical applications. Solid tumours have areas of low oxygen, so anaerobic bacteria are ideal to deliver gene therapy to these areas. Clostridium can form oxygen resistant spores and grow when it enters a low oxygen environment, like a tumour. Scientists have shown that genetically engineered Clostridium can treat cancer successfully in mice.
|Contact: Lucy Goodchild|
Society for General Microbiology