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The 26th European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID), which was held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, from the 9th to the 12th of April in 2016 attracting 11,641 participants, dedicated a large amount of time to discussing vaccines. In particular, the meeting highlighted new vaccines in development, vaccines for adults and the elderly, and provided an update on personalized vaccinology.
An excellent vaccine-related 1-hour keynote lecture entitled “Systems vaccinology” was presented by Bali Pulendran (Atlanta, GA, US). He showed that the advent of high-throughput technologies, when coupled with systems biology methods of data analysis, has enabled researchers to study the entire complement of various molecular components within cells and to characterize the myriad interactions among them in order to model and understand the behavior of the system as a whole. In the context of vaccinology, these tools permit exploration of the molecular mechanisms through which vaccines induce protective immune responses. According to his research group's studies, systems vaccinology holds the potential enabling the identification of early predictive signatures of vaccine response, as well as the identification of novel and robust correlates of protection from infections. Such discoveries, along with the improvement of the understanding of immune responses evoked by vaccination, could play an instrumental role in the development of the next generation of rationally designed vaccines.
Furthermore, 5 scientific symposia at ECCMID reviewed important issues related to the prevention of diseases through vaccine use.
The first 2-hour symposium, which was held on April 9th, reviewed immunity and vaccination in individuals of advanced age. Richard Aspinall (Cranfield, UK) discussed how to understand vaccine responses in the elderly. Thereafter, Gaetan Gavazzi (Grenoble, France) reviewed the available data on herpes zoster vaccines in the elderly and presented recently released recommendations from the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID) Vaccine Study Group (EVASG), the European Union Geriatric Medicine Society (EUGMS) and the World Association for Infectious Diseases and Immunological Disorders (WAidid).1
A very interesting 1-hour pro-con debate was presented on April 10th. Gregory Poland (Rochester, MN, US) presented data from his group showing that personalized vaccinology is already a reality for some vaccines. Meanwhile Outi Vaarala (Helsinki, Finland) discussed limitations related to the use of personalized vaccinology in clinical practice and concluded that we are still far away from its possible use. The pro-con debate emphasized the large volume of research data that has been accumulated over recent years on this topic, but further studies are needed to translate the results from preliminary research studies into routine clinical practice.
A third 2-hour scientific symposium on April 11th focused on pertussis. Epidemiologic data regarding facts and myths about the pertussis resurgence were presented by Alberto Tozzi (Rome, Italy) and Diushi He (Turku, Finland). They also discussed limitations of current diagnostic approaches for pertussis and ways to overcome them. Programs for preventing severe pertussis during early life were presented by Peter McIntyre (Sydney, Australia), with a special focus on maternal immunization. Finally, Camille Locht (Lille, France) discussed work that is in progress to develop new pertussis vaccines. The two chairs of this symposium (Lucia Pastore Celentano, Stockholm, Sweden; and Hanna Nohynek, Helsinki, Finland) stimulated dynamic discussions, which underlined the need to maintain rigorous surveillance of the disease, to increase vaccination coverage and to develop new vaccines that have improved and long-lasting efficacy and excellent safety profiles.
Subsequently, on the afternoon of April 11th, a fourth well-attended 1-hour symposium took place. Margaret Anne Stanley (Cambridge, UK) discussed the need for gender-neutral vaccination against human papillomaviruses (HPV) and challenges in the implementation in both females and males, while Joakim Dillner (Stockholm, Sweden) discussed the most appropriate age categories for HPV vaccination as well as how many doses are needed for long-lasting protection. It was highlighted that we need to re-define HPV vaccination programs in the Europe.
The fifth 1-hour symposium focused on recent prominent papers about pediatric infectious diseases and vaccines. Susanna Esposito (Milan, Italy) discussed data on the Zika virus, the microbiota and its influence on immune responses to vaccines, and the association between antibiotic use and weight gain during childhood. Ron Dagan (Beer-Sheva, Israel) discussed recent papers on vaccines and highlighted priorities for future research in the field. These two experts agreed that vaccines have had and continue to have a significant impact on childhood morbidity and mortality. This impact on childhood morbidity and mortality explains why much of the research on pediatric infectious diseases is dedicated to developing new vaccines, analyzing the impacts of the most recent vaccines on pediatric infectious diseases, and increasing vaccination coverage with the vaccines that are available on the market. It is worth mentioning that despite the fact that this symposium was held in the last time slot on the last day of the conference, the meeting room was overcrowded showing the great interest of ECCMID attendees in the vaccine field.
Furthermore, an educational workshop held traditionally on the first day of the conference provided an excellent in-depth overview on vaccines and vaccinations. Gaetan Gavazzi (Grenoble, France) discussed vaccines as part of a healthy lifestyle, and Jacques Gaillat (Annecy, France) explained why vaccines are very important for the elderly and provided a current status of immunosenescence research. Finally, Susanna Esposito (Milan, Italy) reviewed new vaccines in the immediate pipeline and discussed pediatric vaccines (i.e., new pneumococcal vaccines and vaccines against respiratory syncytial virus [RSV]), vaccines for adolescents and young adults (i.e., second-generation HPV vaccines and meningococcal B vaccine), maternal vaccines (i.e., RSV and group B streptococcus), vaccines for specific groups (i.e., against Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium difficile), and vaccines used in the tropics (i.e., malaria and dengue). After these presentations, there was a lively discussion involving the faculty, and the 2 chairs (Ron Dagan, Beer-Sheva, Israel; and Lucia Pastore Celentano, Stockholm, Sweden) summarized new advances and perspectives in the vaccine field, which were presented during the session.
Finally, during the 26th ECCMID, 2 vaccines and vaccination-related oral sessions and 3 e-poster sessions were conducted. These sessions included presentations chosen among 5,164 submitted abstract with the top reviewers' scores. The number of vaccine and vaccination-related oral/e-poster presentations at the 26th ECCMID was almost double the number presented at the 25th ECCMID, showing the growing interest of ESCMID and ECCMID participants in our field. Among the most interesting novel data presented in oral/e-poster sessions were findings on pneumococcus and pneumococcal diseases in the conjugate vaccine era, which included research on the impact of 10-valent and 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccines in invasive and non-invasive infections in different age groups.
All of these vaccines and vaccination-related presentations at ECCMID demonstrate ESCMID's ability to attract clinicians and researchers working in a wide range of specialty fields pertaining to vaccines. Moreover, EVASG was created almost 3 y ago to build a network of colleagues from different backgrounds under the ESCMID umbrella to provide educational opportunities and to develop novel research ideas in the field of vaccinology in collaboration with other scientific societies. The 26th ECCMID increased the visibility of ESCMID and EVASG in Europe and beyond. Next year's meeting, the 27th ECCMID, will be held in Vienna, Austria, from April 22nd to the 25th.It will provide participants with a unique opportunity to see each other again (in addition to meeting many new colleagues) and to update their knowledge, not only in the field of vaccinology, but on many aspects of clinical microbiology and infectious diseases.
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.