Antimicrobial Resistance Conference

Lucky Cullen is the ECS Policy Officer and here she shares some of the thrills, facts and theories of the SfAM Antimicrobial Resistance Conference. 

The wait was finally over; day one of third annual Antimicrobial Resistance Conference in partnership with the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences (APS) and the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC).  The registration room was buzzing with delegates, exhibitor stands, a fantastic selection of posters, and fresh coffee to get everyone fired up.

The conference was opened by our General Secretary and chair of the policy sub-committee Claire Taylor. She highlighted the thematic focus of the day, exploring human health, diagnostics, novel therapeutics and drug discovery.


Way to slay MRSA

Events kicked off with a talk from Jonathan Edgeworth from the Department of Infectious Diseases, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. Johnathan blew us away with his insights into the MRSA endemic, incorporating stewardship, screening, infection control and diagnostics.

Jonathan highlighted the importance for hospitals to share information, to control the ongoing transmission of infectious disease within the health care network. With his colleagues at the NHS, staff are applying all they have learned controlling MRSA, to the wider antimicrobial resistance agenda. Jonathan ended his talk with a message ‘Don’t forget the basics, don’t lose hope, we will sort it’.

hospital corridor

Keeping up with the catheters

The second talk of the day came from Brian Jones, from the University of Brighton. Brian’s presentation focused on control of catheter associated biofilm infections caused by the pathogen Proteus mirabilis.

Brian informed us that on average, 190 catheterisations are performed per minute. Considering catheter associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI) are a common complication, there’s an urgent need for a novel therapeutic strategy.

Brian and his colleagues previously identified the importance of efflux systems in biofilm formation, and screened pre-existing compounds as potential efflux pump inhibitors (EPIs) within a stimulating bladder model. Brian highlighted two licensed drugs with the potential to act as EPIs. The one that surprised us all was Prozac!

catheter and gloves

Phage craft

Dr James Cass, Research Manager at Phico Therapeutics enlightened us on the SASPject technology using bacteriophages as novel antibacterial agents. The potential of SASPject is incredible, as there’s the ability to target any pathogen and a reduced propensity for acquired resistance (they don’t think resistance will be an issue). Their product can be used in synergy with conventional antibiotics (so their product can be taken at the same time as a conventional antibiotic and produce a greater effect).

The one obstacle for James and his colleagues is the safety concerns around phage research, but the SASPject is certainly worth keeping an eye on.


Fungal phenomenon

Elizabeth Johnson changed direction from bacteriology to mycology, but similarly identifying novel therapeutics to overcome resistance. The stalled antibiotic development pipeline is a problem in all areas of microbiology, with no new class of antifungals since 2001.

Elizabeth used an example of a candidemia outbreak in the UK to illustrate the extent of this issue 100% isolates displayed resistance to all antifungal agents. There is however hope, Elizabeth informed us of two new echinocandins with activity against the known resistant strains, and novel antifungals with unique modes of action including APX001 with activity against Aspergillus, Candida and rare resistance moulds. A light at the end of the tunnel? Let’s hope so!


Peptide party

Des Field from the APC Microbiome Institute in Cork, enlightened us on promising antimicrobial candidates in the form of Lantibiotics. This research exploits the specific immunity mechanism whereby bacteria produce heat stable peptides which are active against bacterial species. Des and his colleagues have their work cut out, as they’ve identified over 100 candidates of interest. One of which- Nysin holds great potential.

The next talk was very informative for all the microbiologists in the room, as we had pharmaceutical chemist in our midst. Miraz Raham from Kings College London along with Public Health England (PHE), have developed a unique antibiotic resistance breaker to extend the current life span of our antimicrobial agents.

The small fragments act as Efflux Pump Inhibitors (EPIs) and are linked to existing antibiotics such as fluoroquinolones. The antibiotic therefore keeps its properties but can also act as an EPI reversing efflux mediated resistance. Miraz thinks miracle lane and a dead end are close to each other and innovation is key to overcoming the resistance crisis.


Phage on the stage

After a lovely lunch where we had the opportunity to peruse the posters, the next speaker Gillian Douce immersed us in the world of Clostridium difficile the leading cause of antibiotic associated diarrhoea.

Unlike conventional treatment of most bacterial infections, treatment of a C. difficile infection is limited to just three antibiotics, therefore there is an urgent need for novel antimicrobials to control C. difficile infection. Like James, Gillian and her colleagues have identified bacteriophages to control this disease.

The final talk of a fantastic first day came from Kai Hilpert from the Institute of Infection and Immunity at St George’s University London. Kai’s research was concerned with peptides, specifically short antimicrobial peptides with the ability to offset multidrug resistance (MDR).

Kai looked at both natural and artificial peptides and used bioinformatics to predict and validate their activity. Kai has tested many peptides including the 2798 in the antimicrobial peptide database. Despite little success he remains optimistic!


Prime panel

As if the amazing key note presentations were not enough, we then had the opportunity to take part in a panel discussion with leading experts in the field of antimicrobial resistance including: Miraz Rahman, Brian Jones, Victoria Savage and James Cass. A range of topics were discussed incorporating

One health, public engagement, who is to blame for the current resistance crisis, the language used in microbiology and chemistry, persistence of antibiotics in the environment and finally whether our expert panel were optimistic or pessimistic about the future.

To bring day one of the antimicrobial resistance meeting to a close, Stephen Wordsworth the executive director of Cara (Council for At Risk Academics) shared with us on the work of the charity to rescue academics at risk.

The Early Career Scientists 7th Annual Research Symposium will be held on March 28 at the University of Birmingham with a focus on Epidemiology and Infection Control.









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