Scientific Program

Day 1

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS
  • Updates on Ebola Viral Disease Breakthroughs since the 2014-2015 epidemic

    University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine
    USA
    Biography

    Author Andrew Myers completed his MD in 2011 from the University of South Florida (USF) Morsani College of Medicine and his residency in internal medicine at the George Washington University in Washington, DC. He is the Director of Quality for the Division of Hospital Medicine at USF and currently working on projects to improve sepsis outcomes and reduce hospital-acquired C. diff. He has an interest in global health and has worked in Botswana, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Dominican Republic, and Thailand as well as leading medical students through research projects in up to 15 different countries annually.

    Abstract

    Ebola hit the population epicenters of three West African countries from 2014 to 2015 and was responsible for over 11,000 deaths across Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. This Ebola outbreak was facilitated by severe insufficiences in the healthcare system of the affected countries and incredibly high population density with unsanitary living conditions brought on by absolute poverty. I had the honor to work in an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Port Loko, Sierra Leone during 2015. I stayed for another year after the epidemic to care for Ebola survivors once it was over. While caring for survivors, my clinic was one of the sites conducting semen testing for persistence of Ebola RNA in male survivors’ semen. I will discuss several of the landmark studies on Ebola since the outbreak concluded including the persistence of Ebola RNA in human semen, the efficacy of an Ebola vaccine, and the seropositivity rate of asymptomatic contacts of Ebola patients.

  • Zoonotic Potential of Chronic Wasting Disease Prions from Cervids

    Case Western Reserve University
    USA
    Biography

    Dr. Kong has completed his Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and postdoctoral studies at Yale University. He is currently an Associate Professor of Pathology, Neurology and Regenerative Medicine. He has published over 50 original research papers in reputable journals (including Science Translational Medicine, JCI, PNAS and Cell Reports) and has been serving as an editorial board member on seven scientific journals. Dr. Kong has multiple research interests, including public health risks of animal prions (CWD of cervids and atypical BSE of cattle), animal modeling of human prion diseases, mechanisms of prion replication and pathogenesis, etiology of sporadic Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD) in humans, normal cellular PrP in the biology and pathology of multiple brain and peripheral diseases, proteins responsible for the ?-cleavage of cellular PrP, as well as gene therapy and DNA vaccination.

    Abstract

    Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is the prion disease in cervids (mule deer, white-tailed deer, American elk, moose, and reindeer). It has become an epidemic in North America, and it has been detected in the Europe (Norway) since 2016. The widespread CWD and popular hunting and consumption of cervid meat and other products raise serious public health concerns, but questions remain on human susceptibility to CWD prions, especially on the potential difference in zoonotic potential among the various CWD prion strains. We have been working to address this critical question for well over a decade. We used CWD samples from various cervid species to inoculate transgenic mice expressing human or elk prion protein (PrP). We found infectious prions in the spleen or brain in a small fraction of CWD-inoculated transgenic mice expressing human PrP, indicating that humans are not completely resistant to CWD prions, This finding has significant ramifications on the public health impact of CWD prions. The influence of cervid PrP polymorphisms, the prion strain dependence of CWD-to-human transmission barrier, and the characterization of experimental human CWD prions will be discussed.

Emerging Infectious Diseases
Speaker
  • One perspective on treating this emerging disease from the field
    Speaker
    Asa Oxner Myers
    University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine
    USA
    Biography

    Author Asa Oxner Myers has completed her MD in 2011 from the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine (USF) and her residency in internal medicine at Harvard Medical School’s teaching hospital Beth Israel Deconess Medical Center. She is the assistant division director of the Division of General Internal Medicine at USF and the Chairman of the Primary Care Quality and Patient-Centered Medical Home Committee. She has an interest in global health and has worked in Botswana, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Colombia, Dominican Republic, and Thailand as well as leading medical students through research projects in up to 15 different countries annually.

    Abstract

    The Ebola epidemic in West Africa from 2014 to 2015 was the largest ever recorded in history, responsible for the deaths of 11,314 patients across Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. I had the opportunity to work in an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in Port Loko, Sierra Leone during 2015. At that time, Port Loko was the district with the highest incidence of new Ebola infections worldwide. I will discuss the staffing stucture of our ETU using teams of Sierra Leonean nationals employed by their government alongside expatriates, our treatment protocols in the ETU, and two cases of patients who were treated at our ETU.

Case Reports: Medical Microbiology & Microbial Infections
Speaker
  • All Disease Begins in the Gut: A story of the warrior T helper cells and the invading microbes of the Gut
    Speaker
    RAJATAVA BASU
    University of Alabama at Birmingham, AL
    USA
    Biography

    Dr. Rajatava Basu received his doctoral training from India and Germany working at Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, India and Charité Medical School, Humboldt University, Germany where he characterized immunodominant epitopes by proteomic analysis to develop an effective DNA vaccination strategy against infectious diseases. After completing a stint at Charité – Universitätsmedizin in Berlin as a visiting scientist, Dr.Basu came to US and joined the laboratory of Prof. Casey Weaver at UAB for pursuing his post doctoral training on the area of cellular and molecular mechanisms controlling T cell-mediated immune regulation during autoimmune inflammation. Currently Dr. Basu is an Assistant Professor of Pathology at UAB School of Medicine and a Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation (CCFA, USA) fellow. He has published in leading journals like Nature Immunology, Immunity and Immunological Reviews. Dr. Basu has received prestigious international scholarships and has been awarded Alexander von Humboldt fellowship and Volkswagen Stiftung fellowship.

    Abstract

    A human body can harbor 5-10 times more microbes than the total number of cells and 90% of all these microbes enter our body through the intestine. Intestine contains the largest compartment of our entire immune system. CD4 T helper cells, arguably the most important cells in our immune system are required to protect the intestine against daily invasion of millions of microbes. Besides combating pathogens, CD4 T helper cells also play a critical role in various inflammation, autoimmune disorders and allergic diseases. While, a class of CD4 T helper cell, known as regulatory T cells (iTreg), encourages infection while suppressing autoimmune responses; another class of T helper cell, known as T helper 17 (Th17), fights infection while promoting autoimmune response. Interestingly, the intestinal immune system doesn’t react to commensal microbes due to production of a Vitamin A metabolite- retinoic acid. This vitamin A metabolite helps to maintain homeostasis in gut as it promotes differentiation of iTreg cells, which in turn promote tolerance so that the intestinal immune cells don’t react to commensal bacteria unnecessarily. During invasion of pathogenic microbes, the homeostasis is broken and other classes of CD4 T cells differentiate to take over the role of the warrior and thwart the pathogens from invading our body. One of the most important classes of effector cells that protect against bacterial invasion are the Th17 cells, whose differentiation is opposed by Vitamin A present abundantly in the gut. Interesting both iTreg and Th17 cellular differentiations require a common signaling pathway that intrinsically links their developmental axis. The talk will briefly focus on the roles of differentiation of these 2 types of T helper subsets on protection against an enteropathogenic bacteria Citrobacter rodentium, a murine gut bacteria that closely mimics enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli infection of humans and serves as a useful model for studying intestinal immune response; and briefly discuss the mechanism of their orchestration to confer protective immunity to the enteropathogenic bacteria. This talk will also highlight the emerging role of intestinal immune system in human health and focus on dynamics of intestinal immune system capable of thwarting the microbial onslaught from trillions of microbes.

Ebola Virus Disease(EVD) and Zika viral infections
Speaker
  • The Impact of HCV or HBV Clearance on HCC Incidence or Progression
    Speaker
    Natalyn N. Hawk
    Emory University, Atlanta
    USA
    Biography

    Dr. Hawk obtained her MD and PhD from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, in collaboration with the Molecular Pathology Graduate program at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. She completed residency training in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, MD. She completed fellowship training in hematology and medical oncology at Emory University as well as a post-graduate research fellowship at Emory Winship Cancer Institute. Dr. Hawk is as an Assistant Professor of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Emory University and is a member of the Gastrointestinal Oncology Working Group of Emory Winship Cancer Institute. She is also a member of the Discovery and Developmental Therapeutics Research Program at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

    Abstract

    Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common primary liver malignancy, over 600,000 cases annually world-wide. HCC pathogenesis is driven by a complex product of a chronic inflammatory state generated by liver chronic liver injury and proliferative signals triggered in the setting of injury, repair and regeneration. Hepatitis C virus and /or Hepatitis B virus infection is associated with 5 year cumulative HCC risk of 30%/17% in Asia/ Western nations for HCV and 15/ 10 % in Asian / Western countries respectively. Primary biliary cirrhosis, or cirrhosis from alcohol, hereditary hemochromatosis have 5 year cumulative risk of HCC of only 4%. While Cirrhosis of the liver is a major driver in the pathogenesis of HCC, chronic HCV or HBV infection independently contribute to tumor promotion due to direct proliferative stimuli from hepatitis virus. The result is a host environment in which there is perpetual activation of inflammatory responses which may lead in some cases to abnormal cell proliferation or inappropriate persistence of activation of inflammatory states culminating in malignancy. The erradication of infection by HBV or HCV virus results in statistically signficant reduction in HCC incidence in patients with cirrhosis. Novel anti-viral therapies for HCV clearance have an increasingly prominent role in cirrhosis management, but the role for anti-viral therapy in patients with overt HCC requires additional clarity.

Day 2

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