Showing posts with label Congress. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Congress. Show all posts

Sunday, May 31, 2015

This Month in Blastocystis Research (MAY 2015)

Words cannot describe my gratitude for being part of the 1st International Blastocystis Symposium, which was seen through to marvelous success by Dr Funda Dogruman-Al, her colleagues and students, her professional arrangement committee and the scientific committee, made up by Dr Graham Clark, Dr Kevin Tan, Dr Hisao Yoshikawa, Professor Ibrahim Dogan, Funda Dogruman-Al, and myself.

Funda Dogruman-Al in the middle flanked by some of the delegates outside Gazi Hastanesi.

A total of 70 delegates had registered, comprising 37 national and 33 international attendees. Countries represented included Australia, Japan, Russia, China, Taiwan, India, Pakistan, Qatar, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Spain, France, Denmark, UK, USA, and Mexico.

Some of the delegates gathering before the gala dinner.

A presymposium workshop taking place the day before the launching of the actual symposium focussed on methods for diagnosis and molecular epidemiological studies of Blastocystis.

The two-day symposium included 13 half-hour lectures, 10 shorter oral presentations, and 27 posters.

Lectures were given by Dr Graham Clark (one of his three talks was on behalf on Prof Andrew Roger and post doc Laura Eme), Dr Kevin Tan, Dr Hisao Yoshikawa, Dr Philippe Poirier, Dr Özgür Kurt, Dr Javed Jakoob, Dr Funda Dogruman-Al, and myself, and covered updates on genomics, cell biology, host-parasite interactions, genetic diversity, epidemiology, clinical significance, treatment, and methods used for detection and molecular characterisation.

We were spoilt with lots of 'Turkish Delight': Here are some of the dancers performing at the gala dinner.

There were six prizes in total; three for the best oral presentations and three for the best posters. Prize money was donated by Elsevier.

The prize winners were as follows: 

Oral presentations:
1st Prize: Erdogan Malatyali, Adnan Menderes University, Aydin, Turkey
2nd Prize: Sitara SR Ajjampur, National University of Singapore, Singapore
3rd Prize: Unaiza Parkar, Murdoch University, Murdoch, Western Australia

Poster presentations:
1st Prize:  John Anthony Yason, National University of Singapore, Singapore
2nd Prize: Joel Martinez-Ocana, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico City, Mexico
3rd Prize: Chen-Chieh Liao, National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan

Over the next few months, original manuscripts – seminal papers and reviews – will be developed for a special issue on Blastocystis in of Parasitology International to mark the event.

An important landmark in Blastocystis history has been made, and we are already looking into our chances of developing the 2nd International Blastocystis Symposium, which may be in 2017.

A huge THANK YOU to Funda for all her efforts, and KUDOS to all contributors for making this such a fantastic event!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Updated programme for the 1st International Blastocystis Symposium + Pre-Symposium Course programme

There has been changes to the programme for the 1st International Blastocystis Symposium (May 28-29), please go here to see the updated programme.

Also, the Pre-Symposium Course programme (May 27) can be viewed here.

We will be absolutely spoilt with speakers!

Please do not forget to visit the official website for updates on the social programme plus abstract/registration deadlines.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Blastocystis Conference Website Launched!

I have the pleasure of introducing the official website for the 1st International Blastocystis Symposium scheduled for the 28-29 May, 2015, in Ankara, Turkey.

Please go to to visit and bookmark the page and to subscribe to updates via email or rss.

We'll be back shortly on the site with updates on the scientific committee, the venue, and how to submit abstracts (including deadline).

Please share. Thanks.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Blastocystis Parasite Blog - 2 Years Anniversary!

Today marks the 2 Years Anniversary of the Blastocytis Parasite Blog! And tomorrow my daughter will be turning three, so there is plenty of reason to celebrate!

My 'Birthday Special' is a collection of links to blog posts that are among the most popular or most unusual ones; a couple of them have been slightly edited (typos and updates).

But before that just a couple of announcements:
A colleague of mine will be at the Digestive Diasese Week in Chicago from 3-6 May 2014 presenting an abstract with the title: 'Dientamoeba fragilis and Blastocytis - two parasites associated with gastrointestinal health'. The title may have a harsh connotation to some, but soon I will be posting the abstract here on the blog, and you will understand why we chose this title.

Next, I'd like to encourage colleagues to come up with suggestions for topics and guest bloggers.

Soon, I'll be doing a separate post on tools available for students/researchers to detect and characterise Blastocystis in samples from humans and animals.

That's it for now; here are the links!

1. The Circular Problem of Blastocystis
2. Amelioration of Colitis by Parasites - or "An Elliot & Weinstock Special"
3. Do IBS Patients Lack Blastocystis and Dientamoeba??
4. Micro-Eukaryotic Diversity in The Human Instestine
5. Blastocystis aux Enfers

Saturday, February 22, 2014

'Save the Date's + Resources

Some 'Save the Date's:

1. ASM Meeting, Boston, MAY 2014:
Speaker: Christen Rune Stensvold 
Session Title: Passion for Parasites! Current Topics in Medical Parasitology 
Session Date/Time:  5/18/2014 8:00:00 AM 
Presentation Title: Blastocystis Clinical Relevance: More Common and Important than You Think

2. ICOPA, Mexico City, AUGUST 2014:
3. 1st International Blastocystis Symposium, Ankara, 28-29 MAY 2015:

Please go here for more information.

Just found out that out of 1065 Blastocystis papers in PubMed, 269 are can be downloaded for free! If you enter 'Blastocystis' in the search box, you'll see the 1065 or so hits, but if you go to the right side bar, you have the option of having the Free Full Text (269) display.

I have disabled Google+ comments for now due to repetitive abuse. However, it is still possible to comment on blog posts, only now comments will be reviewed and potentially moderated by me prior to publishing.

In case there should be readers who think that I'm trying to propagate the view that Blastocystis is pathogenic, I hope that after going through my blog posts they will realise that I'm not; in fact, I'm much more trying to be the devil's advocate: Blastocystis is 'innocent' unless proven otherwise. In my opinion we have very little clinical evidence of pathogenicity. And at our lab, we generally do not recommend treating patients with Blastocystis. In fact, we really don't know HOW to treat Blastocystis, - and maybe that's one of the most fundamental issues in Blastocystis research. I know that many treatment regimens are currently in use for Blastocystis despite the absence of clinical guidelines, and some of them are used systematically at various clinics it seems, but off the top of my head I cannot think of one single randomised controlled treatment study that have explored the microbiological and clinical effect of treatment. Such studies are critical to our understanding of  the role of the parasite in health and disease, although even this type of studies have limitations such as non-specific drug actions that will blur our ability to point out Blastocystis as the culprit, and also some drugs may have adverse effects that mimic symptoms potentially caused by Blastocystis, including symptoms related to intestinal dysbiosis. I hope that those who have extensive experience with Blastocystis treatment will soon take to sharing their knowledge.

But I guess that what we are currently trying in various fields is to get a differentiated view of Blastocystis - for instance: can colonisation turn into infection, and is there any such thing as a Blastocystis infection at all? Can, and if so, when does Blastocystis carriage lead to pathology/disease? Which are the interactions between Blastocystis and the remaining microbiota? What host factors may be responsible for potential differences in Blastocystis-mediated disease susceptibility?

Don't miss the February issue of 'This Month In Blastocystis Research' which will be available in a week or so.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Blastocystis Highlights 2013

For decades man has striven to improve sanitation and protect production animals and crops from infectious agents to prevent diseases in humans, animals and plants. We tend to eat highly processed foods and many children grow up in almost sterile surroundings, for instance without contact to animals. Consequently, in developed parts of the world we are much less exposed to microorganisms and helminths than previously, and the extensive use of antibiotics for prevention, treatment and control of microorganisms is well-known.

As we are now starting to get a much deeper understanding of the role of the human microbiome (whatever that is) in health and disease, we become aware that microbes are to a large extent beneficial to us; for instance we are currently realising that human health is more or less proportional to intestinal biodiversity, including colonisation by parasites. I have previously mentioned the intentional use of eggs of the parasite Trichuris suis to alleviate symptoms and maybe even reduce disease processes in inflammatory bowel disease, a disorder seemingly stemming from immunological processes out of balance. Also in the food sector, steps may now be taken to diminish breeding and gene manipulation to increase crop yield; instead manipulation of microbes (e.g endophytes) may be used to makes crops hardier. Using microbes to combat other microbes and disease processes, thereby reducing the use of antibiotics and other chemical compounds will probably - and hopefully - be central to controlling diseases and increasing production yields.

For us in the 'Blasto business' these trends are particularly intriguing. I'm not the only one who just a couple of years ago thought that functional bowel disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to a large extent might be directly attributable to undiagnosed parasite infections (e.g. Blastocystis and Dientamoeba), something that could be supported by data going out from one of the studies that I carried out during my PhD studies. Over the years, however, we and other groups have produced data showing that patients with IBS are in fact significantly less colonised by the microbial eukaryotes Blastocystis and Dientamoeba than the healthy 'background' population (see this blog post). We also have access to metagenomic data that link the presence of these microbial eukaryotes with high bacterial diversity in the intestine, and I have colleagues confirming that patients suffering post infectious IBS-like symptoms do practically not harbour these parasites. Our hypothesis now is that - generally speaking - Blastocystis and Dientamoeba are proxies for high intestinal microbial diversity and thereby for a healthy gut ecology. This does of course not rule out the possibility of pathogenic strains/subtypes/whatever of microbial eukaryotes, and we are currently increasing our efforts to investigate whether these organisms can cause disease directly or indirectly, - I'll post a few lines on some of the work we have in mind for 2014 in my next post. I believe that one of the things that most Blastocystis researchers are interested in currently, is to increase our knowledge on the diversity and biological characteristics of mitochondrial and nuclear genomes.

It takes time to produce, analyse and interpret genomic data on Blastocystis, simply because we have so little money that can be allocated to PhD students and post docs. Although we try hard to get funding, we only have one PhD student working with Blastocystis genome data... I could have wished for at least one more. One year ago, I thought that 2013 would see at least one more Blastocystis genome paper, but so far, only very little data have emerged and only included in conference abstracts. But so far it appears that the genetic universe of Blastocystis is even bigger than most of us may have thought! To get a very preliminary impression of their data and how much ST1 differs from ST7 (currently the only available genome), you may want to visit a previous blog post. This basically means that even though we know about genes present and expressed by one subtype, the situation may be completely different for other subtypes! Very interesting, but it also means that a lot of work remains to get a clear picture of what Blastocystis actually does and is capable of doing.

This year was also the year where three seminal papers came out from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, all of them first authored by Dr Mohammed Alfellani, who did a magnificent job collecting, culturing and 'DNA extracting' samples from both humans, non-human primates, and other animals from various geographic regions. I have already given numerous examples of his findings. Dr Alfellani identified new subtypes, and did a great job in identifying remarkable variations in the geographical distribution of subtypes in both humans and animals. There are also some useful tables in Alfellani's papers showing overviews of molecular data produced by him and our colleagues. We definitely hope that his papers will stimulate other colleagues to pursuing the epidemiology of Blastocystis and should definitely hold some useful tools for those who are new to Blastocystis epidemiology research. 

I had the pleasure to write up a paper to Trends in Parasitology together with Dr Pauline Scanlan. The paper was free for download in November, and we received quite a lot of positive feedback, so thank you all who are so supportive of the work! It was also very rewarding to put together a review for Advances in Parasitology together with Drs Alfellani, van der Giezen and Clark on 'Recent Developments in Blastocystis Research'.

2013 was also the year where my SSI colleagues and I published a comment in the ISME Journal on how impatiently we are awaiting data on the human 'eukaryotic' microbiome. To map the microbial eukaryotes of the intestine and to try and characterise their structure and function and the intestinal ecology that accompany these organisms are activities that should receive top priority in my opinion. There is a link to the comment here.

Congress-wise, I experienced my first-time-ever Blastocystis session at a conference! It was at the merged meeting arranged by the Scandinavian-Baltic Society for Parasitology and the European Society for Tropical Medicine & International Health. Next year, I will be involved in the session 'Passion for Parasites' at the general ASM 2014 meeting in Boston (morning session,18th of May 2014), where I'll be giving a talk on Blastocystis, and, later next year, I will also be leading a lecture/workshop associated with the ICOPA conference in Mexico on Blastocystis barcoding, - I hope to see a few upcoming Blastocystis geeks there!

I don't think we have ever had better opportunities to do significant research on Blastocystis. More and more people are working with it, our epidemiological data have become a lot stronger, enabling more subtle hypotheses, lots of strains have been sequenced, we have developed protocols for experimental in-vitro and in-vivo studies, so here's to hoping for a vast increase in funding and work in 2014!

Attaching an image of the Nutcracker display currently adorning the facade of the Hotel d'Angleterre in Copenhagen, I wish all of the readers of this blog a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Nicola Jones (2013). Food fuelled with fungi. Nature, 504 DOI: 10.1038/504199a

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Blastocystis Parasite Blog Hits Pageview #100,000!

I want to thank all the readers of this blog who all contribute to an increasing traffic across the site. I reckon I have between 200-400 pageviews daily, and the blog has now reached more than 100,000 pageviews! While I know that quite a few pageviews are fake (i.e. due to bots), it's still great to see visitors from all over the world stopping by, - something that makes my Blasto musings so much more worthwhile.

So, how to celebrate? Well, I've got some pretty cool announcements:

For instance, I can tell you that there is a brand new review out by Dr Pauline D. Scanlan (University of Cork) and myself in Trends in Parasitology (November issue) with some suggestions for shifts in paradigms, and it should be free for download throughout all of November! I hope that you'll enjoy it.

There's also a review out by Wawrzyniak and colleagues (members of the French group who published the first Blastocystis genome) in Therapeutic Advances in Infectious Disease available free for download here.

Congress-wise, I'm happy to announce that I've been invited to the ASM conference in Boston in May 2014 (there goes my Copenhagen Marathon dream for next year!) to give a talk at the special Parasitology Symposium with the title 'Blastocystis - clinical relevance: more common and important than you think'. Moreover, the ICOPA conference in August 2014 in Mexico City will host a symposium and a workshop on 'Blastocystis Barcoding'; more on this and the speakers included in the symposium later. Maybe I'll see you there?

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wrap-Up of Cell Symposium on Microbiome and Host Health

For a parasitologist with a major interest in novel technology like me the Cell Symposium on Microbiome and Host Health (#CMHH) was a challenging, yet stimulating tour de force in bacteriology and immunology, and I realise that gut fungi and protists still fly below the radar of intestinal microbiome research.

The announced line-up of speakers was impressive, and although we missed e.g. Drs Peter Turnbaugh and Fergus Shanahan, we were still spoiled with brilliant talks.

Most of the projects and results presented on the meeting were based on studies on bacterial diversity and structure by either targeted 16S 454 sequencing or metagenomics, while studies of gene function and the 'super-organism' that is the complete microbiome (including the  fungome and protistome I should say, since these genomes are much larger than bacterial ones) were still scarce if represented at all.

Since my focus is on intestinal parasites, my main interest in the vast universe of the human microbiome naturally orbits around the intestinal microbiome. Although there is still a long way to go - due to e.g. significant differences in methodologies and lack of consensus on the analytical basis for 'enterotypes'  - we are slowly but steadily building up a picture of the effect that the human microbiome has on health and disease. Hundreds of species live and have important functions in our gut, to cite Dr Peer Bork, but these species have also been associated with more than 30 human diseases, even neurological ones. Shifts in the composition of the microbiome are associated with an expanding list of chronic diseases that includes obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, and diabetes (Dr Ruth Ley).

Many things may influence our susceptibility to intestinal pathogens, including competition between species (colonisation resistance), the ability of some bacteria to synthesise antimicrobial compounds or stimulate innate immune defenses. Differences in susceptibility to infection may boil down to differences in antimicrobial compounds secreted by our individual microbiota (Dr Michael Fischbach). Bacteroides fragilis is a commensal immunoregulatory microbe mediating major effects through a single molecule, polysaccharide A (Dr Dennis Kasper); polysaccharide A mediates immunoregulation via innate and cognate immune system collaboration.

The list of buzz words was endless, and patterns of cause and effect in this fascinating hubbub of cutting edge science difficult to keep apart - but then again, - many pathways and interactions leading to alterations in gut flora and thereby alteration in host clinical phenotype may result from the complex interplay of any type of intervention (diet, antibiotics, surgery (gastric bypass), microbe exposure, etc.) and host genetics. Dr Wendy Garrett used some of her time to address the fact that antibiotic treatment may lead to more significant perturbation of the intestinal microbiota than e.g. diets and immunoregulation, and she also encouraged thoughts on how to approach causality in studies of microbial communities.

Other things that are interesting include how bacteria "talk" together by quorum sensing to control gene expression and crosstalk between beneficial bacteria (e.g. probiotics) and the intestinal ecosystem, and how these systems can be influenced altogether.

Computer technology - the Creed of today: The Barcelona Supercomputing Centre (with 'Mare Nostrum') located in a former chapel. Source.

So, while focus is still on the trillions of bacteria we have in our gut, we hope that it won't be long before common eukaryotic components of the intestinal microbiome will be studied and analysed alongside with bacterial communities. It says on Wikipedia that targeted studies of eukaryotic and viral communities are limited and subject to the challenge of excluding host DNA from amplification and the reduced eukaryotic and viral biomass in the human microbiome. Excluding host DNA is challenging, but not impossible, and who has actually documented that eukaryotic biomass in the human microbiome is 'reduced'?

The meeting was very well organised and took place at the Sheraton Hotel in Lisbon. I've storified a list of the #CMHH tweets here in case you are interested in more 'headlines'. I apologise for any misquotes.

Further reading:

Koren O, Knights D, Gonzalez A, Waldron L, Segata N, Knight R, Huttenhower C, & Ley RE (2013). A guide to enterotypes across the human body: meta-analysis of microbial community structures in human microbiome datasets. PLoS Computational Biology, 9 (1) PMID: 23326225

Andersen LO, Vedel Nielsen H, & Stensvold CR (2013). Waiting for the human intestinal Eukaryotome. The ISME Journal PMID: 23407309

Ivanov II, & Honda K (2012). Intestinal commensal microbes as immune modulators. Cell Host & Microbe, 12 (4), 496-508 PMID: 23084918

Brown J, de Vos WM, Distefano PS, Doré J, Huttenhower C, Knight R, Lawley TD, Raes J, & Turnbaugh P (2013). Translating the human microbiome. Nature Biotechnology, 31 (4), 304-8 PMID: 23563424

Blaser M, Bork P, Fraser C, Knight R, & Wang J (2013). The microbiome explored: recent insights and future challenges. Nature Reviews. Microbiology, 11 (3), 213-7 PMID: 23377500

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cell Symposium: Microbiome & Host Health - Lisbon 2013

My colleagues from Statens Serum Institut and I are heading to Lisbon, Portugal, tomorrow morning to attend the Cell Symposium on Microbiome and Host Health (link may be really busy now).

We are bringing a poster displaying some of our work related to our GUT18S project: A Novel Approach For Eukaryotic Phylogenetic Interrogation Of Clinical Samples Using Next Generation Sequencing Of SSU rRNA Genes; a pdf version of the poster can be downloaded here.

The GUT18S work is partly funded by the Marie Curie Actions (FP7) program.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

XVII Seminar on Amoebiasis, Mérida, Mexico, March 2013


The XVII Seminar on Amebiasis will take place in Mérida, México, March 1-5, 2013. For futher information, please go here.

(Artwork by Jan Voss ("Parasites"))

Friday, September 28, 2012

Brazilian Society of Protozoology - 2012 meeting

It's time to bone up on my Portuguese! Off to

XXVIII Reunião Anual da Sociedade Brasileira de Protozoologia

in Caxambu, Brazil tomorrow.

Giving keynote lecture on 3rd of October. Title of talk: "Blastocystis - friend or foe?"

The lecture is mainly based on thoughts presented in my recent paper: "Thinking Blastocystis Out of The Box" (PMID: 22704911) and output from our most recent studies.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

8th European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health

The Danish Society for Tropical Medicine and International Health will be organising the European congress in 2013. We hope to see as many as possible. 
You may access the congress home page (as it develops) on or via the home page of the Federation of European Societies for Tropical Medicine and International Health ( 

The congress will be held in Tivoli Congress Centre on 10-13 September, 2013.


Saturday, March 31, 2012

European Congress on Tropical Medicine and International Health in CPH 2013

Don't forget the VIII’th ECTMIH in Copenhagen September 10-13, 2013, - click here to get flyer.

Why not speculate on our possibilities to host a symposium/work shop on Blastocystis? Potential topics:

1) Blastocystis in the "omics" era - possibilities and perspectives
2) Recent advances in Blastocystis research
3) Standardisation in Blastocystis epidemiological research methodologies

Friday, March 30, 2012

XXVIII SBPz Meeting in Caxambu, Brazil in October - key note on Blastocystis

Looking forward to giving key note talk at XXVIII SBPz (SociedadeBrasileira de Protozoologia) in Caxambu - Minas Gerais - Brazil in October. Title of talk: Blastocystis - friend or foe?