On behalf of the 16 societies that make up the Federation of Infection Societies and the Society for General Microbiology which takes the lead this year, welcome to FIS 2015.
It is 17 years since there were reports of ‘Lords a-leaping’ [Greenwood, (1998) 1] with the publication of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee (Soulsby) report on ‘Resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobial agents’.
But what has happened since then? UK Government is clearly still engaged with the House of Commons Science and Technology Report ‘Ensuring access to working antimicrobials’ published in July 2014. A more general and perhaps re-assuring awareness was demonstrated when the topic ‘How can we prevent the rise of resistance to antibiotics?’ won the Longitude Prize Challenge in 2014, by public vote.
But are we still too complacent when it comes to the dangers of infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance? Infections with the potential to become untreatable due to multidrug resistant microbes may be easy to identify, presenting an obvious and identifiable future threat. The threat to medical and surgical practice which relies on the efficacy of antimicrobial prophylaxis and disinfection is perhaps less obvious. The success of infection prevention measures may even have engendered complacency in relation to antimicrobial resistance. For example, lethal post-surgical infection arising from anaerobic bacteria of the gastro-intestinal tract was a significant concern until the introduction of the antibiotic metronidazole in the 1970s; the efficacy of this antibiotic means that the pathogens involved are now generally perceived as being of low importance. Which they are: until they become resistant. Similarly, we rely on continued antimicrobial susceptibility to maintain the improvements we have seen to cancer survival where the cancer treatments increase infection risk. The potential impact of antimicrobial resistance on successful cancer treatment is a grave concern.
FIS 2015 will address these issues and highlight how we can tackle and prevent a post-antimicrobial era in the context of the ongoing technological revolution, which since the “Lords were a-leaping” in 1998, has seen the cost of sequencing a complete bacterial genome plummet from hundreds of thousands of pounds to a few hundred pounds, with the data available within a week rather than after many months. This has not only opened up new opportunities for developing novel antimicrobials, diagnostics and vaccines, but also allows unprecedented insights into the human microbiota, the life that lives on and in us, and its role in health and disease.
We have confirmed Faculty from the USA, Canada and Europe as well the UK with topics that will inform and inspire across Healthcare, Medicine, Science and Surgery. FIS 2015 promises to be a vibrant meeting to address the issues of tackling infection beyond 2015 so that although the ‘post-antimicrobial era’ may remain a concern, it does not become a reality.
I look forward to welcoming you in Glasgow.
Professor Sheila Patrick
BSc PhD DSc (Edin) FHEA
Chair FIS 2015 Organising Committee
Society for General Microbiology FIS Representative