Showing posts with label symposium. Show all posts
Showing posts with label symposium. Show all posts

Friday, October 13, 2017

Official Poster for the 2nd International Blastocystis Conference

Thanks to Juan-David Ramirez Gonzales and his colleauges, the official poster for the 2nd International Blastocystis Conference is now available.

I put it on Google Drive as a pdf file, which you can download here. Please share it on facebook. Please also print it and use it to adorn your institutes, hospital departments, offices, canteens, homes, etc... Thanks!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

It's official - The 2nd International Blastocystis Conference!

It's been a while, but I hope the wait has been worth the while!

On behalf of the organisers, who currently include Juan-David Ramírez, Funda Dogruman-Al, and myself, we would now like to announce the dates, venue, and speakers for the 2nd International Blastocystis Conference! Feel free to be mesmerised!

Juan-David Ramírez just sent me the 'teaser' below - and this blog is an obvious place to share it.
We are very happy that so many "heavy Blastocystis researchers" have accepted our invitation to participate! However, we already now know that we will be missing some very important ones. Well, you can't have it all, and we're absolutely sure that the event will be a BLAST(ocystis)!

There will be a two-day workshop (9th–10th of October) followed by a two-day conference (11th–12th of October). On the Friday, the 13th of October, it will be possible to participate in a one-day sightseeing event in Bogotá.

So, if you haven't done it already, make sure that you sign up for notifications from the Blastocystis Parasite Blog (here or on Facebook) in order to keep up with the latest information on abstract submission deadlines, programme, practicalities, travel grants, etc.

We are also on the lookout for sponsors, so if you have any suggestions, please contact me.

We are looking very much forward to seeing you in Bogotá in 2018!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Announcement of The 1st International Blastocystis Symposium

It is a pleasure for me to be able to announce that Dr. Funda Dogruman-Al and I have started planning

'The 1st International Blastocystis Symposium' 

to be held in Ankara, May 28-29 in 2015 under the auspices of Gazi University, Faculty of Medicine, Ankara, Turkey.

We have received very positive responses so far from quite a few of the leading scientists in Blastocystis research expressing their interest in the symposium, and obviously our goal is to be able to raise significant and relevant funding to cover at least some of the expenses related to the meeting. Already, a total of € 6,000 has been raised, but we hope for a lot more.

It may seem like a long time ahead, but we believe that by starting this early, we should stand a fair chance of arranging and completing a meeting that will enable a strengthening of global cooperative networks so as to increase the sharing of ideas, data, expertise, and best practices in this field to the mutual benefit of the researchers and organisations involved. 

The past few years have seen a substantial surge in Blastocystis research in many areas, and so the main foci of this symposium will be:
  • Diagnosis and molecular characterisation
  • Epidemiology
  • Evolutionary biology and advances in genomics
  • Intestinal ecology
  • Clinical significance including potential relationship to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
The symposium will also serve as an initial forum to address and discuss critical questions including: 
  • What is the evidence of Blastocystis pathogenicity?
  • If Blastocystis may be pathogenic, what then are the factors involved? Which mechanisms could potentially be involved in the development of disease?
  • Could specific host factors be responsible for the development of symptomatic Blastocystis infections, and if so, how can these be identified?
  • How can Blastocystis infections be controlled?
  • Is there any correlation between the human intestinal microbiota and Blastocystis carriage?
  • How can novel technology and multi-disciplinary approaches assist in answering fundamental questions concerning the clinical significance of Blastocystis?
We hope that the symposium will attract not only experts on Blastocystis, but also biologists and medical doctors in the fields of clinical microbiology, infectious diseases, gastroenterology, evolutionary biology, and microbial ecology. Certainly, those who have expressed interest so far cover a wide spectrum of these research areas.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

This Month In Blastocystis Research (JUL 2013)

The open access journal 'Tropical Parasitology' (published by the Indian Academy of Tropical Parasitology) has included a symposium on Blastocystis in their January-June (Vol. 3) issue (available here). The symposium comprises three papers; one is on "taxonomy, biology and virulence", the next is on genetic diversity and molecular methods for diagnosis and epidemiology, and the last one is on treatment controversies. I believe that it may take quite a while before these papers will appear in PubMed.

The first paper written by Drs Parija and Jeremiah sums up a few of the aspects related to (especially historical) taxonomic issues and very little on the actual biology of Blastocystis. Meanwhile, there is quite a substantial section on Blastocystis morphology. Regarding virulence, the authors mention the possibility that differences in virulence may be due to differences in subtypes, but that subtyping alone does not predict pathogenicity which in part may be due to varying levels of intra-subtype genetic variation. The authors also briefly mention some of the morphological and phenotypical observations that have been associated with 'pathogenic Blastocystis', such as the amoeboid stage, large cells, rough surface, slow growth rate, and increased binding to lectins. It is always interesting to speculate on such associations, but it must be kept in mind that results from in-vitro experiments may not necessarily reflect in-vivo situations.

One topic that keeps popping up in the literature - and also in two of the papers here in this symposium - is the possibility of 'amoebic forms' of Blastocystis being associated with symptomatic infection. This hypothesis was introduced in 2006 by Tan and Suresh, I believe; Scanlan (2013) speculated that amoeboid forms might be the nutrient acquiring form potentially selecting for bacterial virulence or certain bacterial communities through grazing; please go here for more thoughts from a previous blog post.

My own experience on Blastocystis morphology mainly stems from looking at cultures, and since we practically only get isolates from patients with gastrointestinal disease, I don't know what Blastocystis cultures from asymptomatic individuals look like. A dear colleague of mine - Marianne Lebbad, a brilliant Swedish parasitologist with many years in business - sent me the picture below (light microscopy of a faecal concentrate) and speculates that Blastocystis might be able to form groups/clusters of cells, maybe even with the ability to form a mono-layer on the surface of the gut mucosa? I've never observed the cluster formation in cultures, but then again, we have no idea of whether the stages seen in in vitro cultures (microaerophilic environment) are identical to the in vivo stages (strictly anaerobic), and exactly how Blastocystis lives and multiplies in the colon... Anyway, the idea of biofilm comes into mind. It would be nice to learn more from colleagues with a similar experience.

Light microscopy of Blastocystis apparently forming a cluster of cells; we wonder whether the cells are in fact 'glued' together and if so, how? Courtesy of Dr Marianne Lebbad.

Moving on to the next paper, this one was written by me and deals mostly with issues and developments within the field of diagnostics, molecular characterisation, and molecular epidemiology. The target audience comprises clinical microbiologists and those involved in Blastocystis epidemiology and genetic diversity research. Included is a table, which is basically a reproduction of the one included in the recent paper by Alfellani et al. (2013) displaying the distribution of subtypes in humans across different geographical regions. I hope that the open access feature of this paper will prompt even more researcher into Blastocystis epidemiology! At least it is currently listed on the site as 'popular'!

The third paper in the string is written by Drs Sekar and Shanthi. These authors put emphasis on the conspicuous lack of data on the metabolic processes of Blastocystis, making it difficult to establish how to best approach antibiotic intervention; we must anticipate that with more genomic and transcriptomic data analyses arriving within a foreseeable future we will soon know much more about this. They also reiterate what has been put forth by many, namely that differences in eradication may boil down to differences in drug susceptibility, which again may be due to a variety of reasons, including genetic diversity, which is extreme in Blastocystis.

According to these authors, 'therapy should be limited to patients with persistent symptoms subsequent to a complete work up for alternative etiologies'; at the present stage this appears sensible, although clinicians would probably appreciate a clearer definition of 'symptoms'!

The review goes through some of the drugs most commonly used for treating Blastocystis, including metronidazole, paromomycin and co-trimoxazole, but also includes a few data on the use of the probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii in attempts to eradicate Blastocystis. There is not very much on the mechanisms of drug action, - it's more like a summary of data coming out from different studies, including the few placebo-controlled ones.
Regarding co-trimoxazole (which is also known as 'Bactrim' or 'Septra') this drug combo is often administered to HIV-patients prophylactically against Pneumocystis. In a study of parasites in Danish HIV patients, only 6/96 patients were given co-trimoxazole (unpublished data); two of these patients had Blastocystis. Hence, one 'alternative' way of finding out about the efficacy of co-trimoxazole on Blatocystis is to test the stools from patients undergoing long-term Pneumocystis prophylaxis comparing these patients to a cohort not receiving Pneumocystis prophylaxis but otherwise similar.

I find it a bit peculiar though to go through a review on treatment data that does not at one single point mention the need for sensitive diagnostics when evaluating courses of treatment and the identification of carriers and non-carriers. Also, there are some passages which are quite difficult for me to follow, for instance p. 36, second column, bottom section.

I hope that this symposium will inspire some of our colleagues and contribute to an increased understanding of Blastocystis.



Parija SC & Jeremiah SS (2013). Blastocystis: Taxonomy, biology and virulence Tropical Parasitology DOI: 10.4103/2229-5070.113894
Stensvold CR (2013). Blastocystis: Genetic diversity and molecular methods for diagnosis and epidemiology Tropical Parasitology DOI: 10.4103/2229-5070.113896  

Sekar U & Shanthi M (2013). Blastocystis: Consensus of treatment and controversies Tropical Parasitology DOI: 10.4103/2229-5070.113901


Scanlan PD (2012). Blastocystis: past pitfalls and future perspectives. Trends in parasitology, 28 (8), 327-34 PMID: 22738855

Stensvold CR, Nielsen SD, Badsberg JH, Engberg J, Friis-Møller N, Nielsen SS, Nielsen HV, & Friis-Møller A (2011). The prevalence and clinical significance of intestinal parasites in HIV-infected patients in Denmark. Scandinavian Journal of Infectious Diseases, 43 (2), 129-35 PMID: 20936912  

Tan TC & Suresh KG (2006). Predominance of amoeboid forms of Blastocystis hominis in isolates from symptomatic patients. Parasitology Research, 98 (3), 189-93 PMID: 16323025