The 31st Annual Meeting of the European Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases (ESPID), which was held in Milan, Italy, from 28 May to 1 June, 2013, was attended by more than 3500 participants from all over the world, a number that highlights ESPID’s continuing growth and its ability to attract clinicians and researchers working in a wide range of specialist fields.
The main theme of the meeting—future perspectives in pediatric infectious diseases—was developed in a comprehensive series of symposia, keynote lectures, educational workshops and meet-the-expert sessions covering the entire field of pediatric infection-related diseases and involving a large number of internationally renowned experts, all of which gave the attendees an unrivalled opportunity to exchange information and experiences.
The first 2 days consisted of satellite symposia mainly dedicated to vaccine preventable diseases and included detailed discussions about vaccines against influenza, pneumococcal infection, meningococcal disease, pertussis, human papillomavirus, rotavirus and hepatitis B. The meeting then formally started with an opening ceremony consisting of 2 excellent lectures concerning vaccines aimed at preventing respiratory illnesses given by Adam Finn (University of Bristol, United Kingdom) and Kathryn Edwards (University of Vanderbilt, Nashville, TN), a description of the society’s mission by ESPID’s President Ronald de Groot, welcoming addresses by myself (as Chairperson of the meeting) and representatives of local authorities, and a performance by a choir of children with hearing disabilities.
The following days included 2 plenary sessions: 1 on viral respiratory infections, during which Albert Osterhaus (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) made a scintillating presentation of emerging viruses with a detailed update on new influenza viruses and the new coronaviruses; the other concerning the debate on how to manage community-acquired pneumonia, during which David Greenberg (Beer-Sheva, Israel) and myself (Milan, Italy) presented the recently published ESPID consensus document.1 Other concomitant sessions included presentations on subjects including when and how to use antimicrobials, tuberculosis, recurrent respiratory tract infections, the role of genetics in pediatric infectious diseases, the complications of common infections, respiratory infections in children with chronic diseases, controversies in pediatric infectious diseases, unresolved issues concerning anti-infective therapies and probiotics.
Two further sessions were dedicated to vaccines, one of which was really excellent with a presentation by Nicola Principi (Milan, Italy) on future vaccines, one by Andrew Pollard (Oxford, United Kingdom) on the correlates of protection and the role of cell-mediated immunity and one by Timo Vesikari (Tampere, Finland) on the safety issues related to the use of adjuvants.
The joint ESPID/World Health Organization Symposium on infectious diseases in Europe was highly successful. It placed particular emphasis on the eradication of measles and rubella,2 and the importance of communicating with families effectively in order to dispel some still common misconceptions about vaccinations (such as the association between measles and autism) and increase vaccination coverage everywhere. A large number of participants also attended the session based on leading papers concerning pediatric infectious diseases and the interactive case sessions aimed at providing information that is useful in everyday clinical practice.
Other highlights of the scientific program included 12 meet-the-expert sessions covering the connections between allergies and respiratory infection, how to manage pediatric meningitis, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, when to use antifungal prophylaxis in neonates and children, urinary tract infections, advances in pediatric HIV, the approach to febrile neutropenia, diagnostic advances, neonatal infections, nutrition and infections, malaria and hepatitis.
As is traditional during ESPID meetings, the recipients of the prestigious Bill Marshall Award, the 2-year fellowship and Young Investigator awards were announced. The 2013 Bill Marshall Awardee was Andrew Pollard, a renowned expert in pediatric infectious diseases and immunology, Professor of Paediatric Infection and Immunity at the University of Oxford and Director of the Oxford Vaccine Group. His current far-reaching research activities include clinical trials of new and improved vaccines for children, the surveillance of invasive bacterial diseases in children, studies of cellular and humoral immune responses to glycoconjugate and typhoid vaccines and the development of a serogroup B meningococcal vaccine. He has published over 200 peer-reviewed articles, many of them in leading journals. Over the last 10 years, he has received a large number of research grants, registered 5 patents and been a wonderful mentor and tutor for many PhD and medical students. He started the postgraduate course on Infection and Immunity in Children, one of the best in its field in the world, and the Postgraduate Diploma in Paediatric Infectious Disease. His fascinating lecture entitled “215 years of vaccination: job done?” highlighted once again the importance of vaccines for reducing childhood mortality and morbidity.
The 2013 ESPID Fellowships allowed Santtu Heinonen (Turku, Finland) to undergo postdoctoral training in the immunology of respiratory syncytial virus infection at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, under the supervision of Octavio Ramilo and Asuncion Mejias, whereas Sara Bernhard-Stirnemann (Bern, Switzerland) worked as a research fellow at the University of Lund, Sweden, studying the host–pathogen interactions of the respiratory tract pathogen Moraxella catarrhalis.
Previous recipients of ESPID Fellowships presented their results during the Best of ESPID session: Rianne Oostenbrink (winner in 2010), Johannes Trück (winner in 2009) and Christine Jones (winner in 2007). The 2013 Young Investigator Awards were given to Ruud Gerard Nijman (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) for clinical research into diagnostic strategies for febrile children at risk of serious bacterial infections and Stefanie Henriet (Nijmegen, The Netherlands) for basic research into invasive fungal infections in patients with chronic granulomatous disease.
The 31st ESPID Meeting also provided an opportunity to introduce new ways of presenting original data. The 42 oral presentations made during the main sessions were selected from more than 1200 submitted abstracts. There were a number of “E-poster” sessions during which researchers presented their data orally and discussed them with the attendees, and E-posters were also available in electronic form on large screens located in the poster area. Moreover, some of the traditional posters were discussed during poster walks organized on the basis of specific areas of interest, and other posters were available for personal viewing.
Two events were dedicated to young trainees in pediatric infectious diseases: the Walter Marget Workshop, during which the management of pediatric infectious diseases was discussed and instruments for coping with pediatric infectious disease-related problems were provided, and the 5th Research Masterclass, a 1-day seminar for European pediatric infectious disease research groups at which young researchers presented their latest studies and were able to discuss their findings with other junior colleagues and European research group leaders. During the Research Masterclass, some of the young trainees also participated in chairing the scientific sessions.
The meeting also provided an opportunity to network with colleagues from different backgrounds and develop new research ideas as well as innovative ways of organizing laboratory and clinical processes.
I believe that the Milan meeting contributed to developing the content and structure of ESPID Annual Meetings further and hope it strengthened the Society’s position and increased its visibility in Europe and beyond. I would like to thank everyone involved (the President and Board, the speakers, contributors and participants and the ESPID Secretariat) for ensuring that the meeting met the overall expectations of the attendees and the high standards of the Society.
Next year’s meeting will be held in Dublin, Ireland, from 6 to 10 May and is being organized by Professor Karina Butler, an active ESPID member with inspiring ideas who I am sure will give us an excellent opportunity to see each other again (and many new colleagues) and learn even more.