(Oct. 15, 2009)--Ten researchers from the UTSA South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (STCEID) attended in September the sixth International Conference on Tularemia at the University Hospital Charite, Charite Campus Mitte, in Berlin, Germany. Six of the 10 UTSA participants presented at the conference, which served as a forum for researchers in many disciplines to exchange ideas about the bacterium Francisella tularensis and its fatal infection, tularemia.
"For years, Francisella tularensis was developed as an intentional bio-weapon," said Karl Klose, STCEID director and UTSA professor of microbiology and immunology. "Even now, Francisella tularensis causes tularemia epidemics in many parts of the world. By sharing our knowledge of the bacterium with other tularemia researchers in the international community, we are better poised to collectively develop effective treatments and preventive measures against tularemia."
Approximately 232 researchers attended the international conference including Klose and fellow STCEID members Bernard Arulanandam, James Chambers and Neal Guentzel, all professors in the UTSA Department of Biology. Also attending were UTSA graduate students Heather Ray and Annette Rodriguez; postdoctoral fellows Jeffrey Barker, Yu Cong and Jieh-Juen Yu; and UT Health Science Center at San Antonio graduate student Aimee Signarovitz, who performs her research at UTSA.
Discussions at the international conference focused on fundamental, clinical and applied research on the F. tularensis bacteria. Topics included the biological and genetic interactions of F. tularensis with an infected host; the molecular mechanisms of F. tularensis persistence and targets for disease control; the epidemiology and ecology of F. tularensis; tularemia infections in non-human primate models; and mechanisms of tularemia immunity, vaccination and immunotherapy.
At the conference, Klose gave a molecular and biochemical analysis of the bacterium along with other panelists, and Yu discussed the identification of potential tularemia biomarkers from F. tularensis infected plasma. Rodriguez was a panelist for the conference's discussion of the cell biology of F. tularensis.
Attendees perused more than 100 scientific posters including five developed by UTSA researchers:
"Conferences such as the International Conference on Tularemia are extremely important for the improvement of public health and the development of new infectious disease treatments," said Klose. "Although bacteria cause many different types of infections, we see striking similarities in the methods that various bacteria use to cause infections. The more we learn about a model bacterium like tularensis, the better off we are in learning about the next one."
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