Friday, September 27, 2013

This Month In Blastocystis Research (SEP 2013)

This month has been extremely busy, and I've been preoccupied with networking, meetings and conferences.

I want to thank the arrangers of the Scandinavian-Baltic Society for Parasitology (SBSP) meeting (which was this year merged with The 8th European Congress of Tropical Medicine & Tropical Medicine)  for arranging a conference session on 'Intestinal Protists - Diagnostic Tools and Emerging Trends', which I was very honoured to chair. One of the four talks was unfortunately cancelled, but the rest of the talks were centred on Blastocystis, and due to great speakers and a very engaged and experienced audience, it turned out to be an extremely interesting and awarding session, sporting topics such as in-vitro susceptibility testing, subtype distribution in different cohorts, diagnostics, and 'Blastomics' advances. The conference took place in the Tivoli Congress Center in Copenhagen. Excellent facilities, but apparently catering other than tap water, tea + coffee could not be accommodated in the congress budget; but then again, it was a big meeting with more than 1,000 people registered (unconfirmed). Anyway, I look forward to more meetings and symposia focusing on Blastocystis! For more on this, stay tuned!

PubMed-wise there is not really much to include in the 'This Month in Blastocystis Research' series though, and I think I'll skip it this time. However, for those with an insatiable appetite for scientific papers on Blastocystis, I have very good news: The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Online Research Library, which can be accessed here, apparently offers free download of accepted papers (i.e. the original files accepted by the various journals and not the printed versions). A search on Blastocystis renders about 25 publications (not of all of which are specifically on Blastocystis, though), so there should be plenty to read...

Thanks to our excellent librarian here at the SSI, my entertainment for the weekend will be 'Studies on Human Intestinal Protozoa' published in Acta Medica Scandinavica (Supplementum LXX) in 1935 by Ruth Svensson - her doctoral thesis dedicated to Dr Clifford Dobell...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fellowships in Blastocystis Research

We are continually looking into the opportunity for funding for research in Blastocystis and we are on the lookout for young researchers with a MSc or PhD degree who want to spend at least a couple of years in Blastocystis research. Right now, taking an omics approach to studying the clinical significance of Blastocystis is extremely relevant of course, given the amount of genetic diversity of the parasite, its apparent association to groups of bacteria/bacterial richness, its varied distribution across different cohorts, and the general availability of ngs technology and data pipelines.

I'm going to focus my next funding application on the integration of metagenomics, metabolomics, comparative genomics, and transcriptomics, and I'm hoping to find one or two persons with track records documenting extensive experience with one or more of these disciplines and who take an interest in parasites/parasitic protists in general and/or in Blastocystis in particular.

Please note that this is NOT a job offer, but merely an invitation to get into some sort of a dialogue. What we can offer is access to samples, strains, technology, and a Blastocystis-centred network.

Please do not answer in the comments section, but contact me directly (mail/phone) for further info + expression of interest. You'll find a link to my contact details in the previous blog post. Thanks.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Yes, we do take orders!

I get an increasing amount of requests for Blastocystis testing (and testing for other parasites as well, for instance Dientamoeba fragilis). Initially, I was happy to do this for free, but now the requests are so regular that I need to add a fee to the tests.

And yes, we do take orders! As the regular reader of this blog would know by now, I run the part of our  Parasitology lab at Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, that deals with Blastocystis diagnostics and diagnostics for intestinal parasites in general. I have been developing and optimising molecular Blastocystis diagnostics for years, something which is also witnessed by my scientific production. Please note that we take orders only from health authorities. This means that if you want to have samples tested in our lab, you should contact your GP/specialist/whatever, and have him/her put the order through.

For general screening, I recommend real-time PCR analysis. For evaluation of treatment I recommend adding Blastocystis culture (a positive culture means ongoing Blastocystis infection, while DNA-based tools such as our real-time PCR will detect both dead and live organisms). We also perform subtyping of Blastocystis upon request.

In cases where colleagues want to outsource diagnostic work related to research, we are currently opening up for the possibility of testing large panels of faecal samples (fresh, frozen, or ethanol-preserved) for Blastocystis, Dientamoeba fragilis or other parasites by molecular assays (including DNA extraction) - and - if requested - in combination with traditional microscopy of faecal concentrates.

A selection of our analyses for parasites can be viewed here.

Our parasitology lab is merged with the mycology lab, and therefore we have plenty of opportunity to test the same stool sample for parasites and yeasts (e.g. Candida), if requested. As a new feature, Blastocystis+Dientamoeba+Candida analyses can now be requested in combination as a 'package' with a discount. We are happy to send out test tubes and transport envelopes, but I repeat that charges will apply.

Research-wise, we are currently taking different approaches to detecting and differentiating non-human eukaryotic DNA/RNA in human faecal samples, among these the GUT 18S approach.

For further inquiries and information, please do not hesitate to contact me (contact details can be found here).

Relevant articles on molecular diagnostics for Blastocystis detection and subtyping:

Stensvold CR, Ahmed UN, Andersen LO, & Nielsen HV (2012). Development and evaluation of a genus-specific, probe-based, internal-process-controlled real-time PCR assay for sensitive and specific detection of Blastocystis spp. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 50 (6), 1847-51 PMID: 22422846

Stensvold CR (2013). Comparison of sequencing (barcode region) and sequence-tagged-site PCR for Blastocystis subtyping. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 51 (1), 190-4 PMID: 23115257

Monday, September 2, 2013

Final TM&IH Copenhagen Conference Programme Now Available.

The final programme for 8th European Congress on Tropical Medicine & International Health and the 5th Conference of the Scandinavian-Baltic Society for Parasitology (merged venue) has now appeared and can be downloaded here. Abstract book (including poster abstracts) not yet available, but there will be a few that include Blastocystis. For those attending the conference and interested in Blastocystis, I recommend session 6.3.3. (11 SEP 2013).

Read more here