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XV Botrytis International Symposium, Cadiz, Spain, May 30 – June 4, 2010
One hundred and six Scientists, from 17 different countries attended the conference in Cadiz, the famous sherry producing area in the SW of Spain.
Support for the conference came, not surprisingly, in liquid form, from the major Sherry producing wineries in the area. Conference tours included a visit to the Garvey Wine cellar in Jerez and an excellent guided sherry wine tasting session at El Consejo Regulador followed by the conference gala dinner at Bodegas Domecq.
From the UK, only two delegates attended, Molly Dewey from Oxford and Gemma Chope from Cranfield. A third BSPP member, Chris Steel, from Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga, Australia also gave a presentation. The shortest session was that chaired by Molly Dewey on Detection and Epidemiology. Notably absent was the lack of papers on Q-PCR methods to determine biomass of Botrytis in infected plants. Lesion size still appears to be the most common method of assessing biomass in planta despite the availability of easy to use, commercially available, immunological, semiquantitative Botrytis-Lateral Flow devices.
Most of the presentations concerned fungicide resistance and pathogen host signalling. As can be expected, there is strong evidence that repeated applications of fungicides leads to the selection of multiple fungicide resistant strains. From cell signalling studies, it is apparent that Botrytis is very different from other necrotrophic fungi.
Disappointing was the fact that there were only 3 presentations on the pathology of species of Botrytis other than B. cinerea, no presentations on Botrytis as endophytes and no discussions on the main findings from the sequencing of the B. cinerea genome (BO5. 10 and T4) or the distribution and frequency of Group I isolates of B. cinerea (B. pseudocinerea) world-wide.
Molly Dewey, University of Oxford Epidemics2 , Athens, Greece, 2009 There appears to be an interesting divide between plant epidemiology on one hand and human and animal epidemiology on another. The human and animal epidemiology world is preoccupied with dynamics – changes over time as the infection builds up either in single individuals (macroparasites) or in populations (microparasites). The key concepts, stability, invasion and basic reproduction ratio (R0) are related to the interactions between individuals as described by a family of SIR and similar models. In contrast, plant epidemiologists, ever since the seminal work by van der Plank, have concentrated on a disease triangle – susceptible host, pathogen presence and conducive environment. It is only relatively recently that SIR models and the associated concept of R0 have successfully been used in plant epidemiology. These ideas can provide a powerful suite of models to predict the rates of spread of many plant diseases and to successfully design control strategies. On the other hand, host-pathogen genetic race, replication of experiments, spatial component of spread, environment role in spread of infectious diseases and economic aspects of control have only recently been incorporated into the analysis of human and animal epidemics.
The separate development of the plant and animal/human epidemiology is very clear in the attention given to plant diseases at major epidemic conferences. The second Epidemics conference organised by Elsevier in Greece in December 2009 was no exception. The 2009 conference was the second one in the series and was organized in Athens (Greece). It is now becoming one of the key conferences in epidemiology in the world, with strong links to a new journal, also called Epidemics. The emphasis is on modelling – most talks and posters incorporated at least some elements of mathematical models and parameter estimation. Although the recent outbreak of swine influenza was a focus of attention at the meeting, the conference covered an impressive range of diseases, both human and animal, in wildlife and managed environments.
The increased availability of detailed data – spatial distribution of hosts, networks of interaction, rapid surveillance methods – and the associated parameter estimation methods were the key elements of many presentations. Inclusion of social, political and economical factors, particularly in the context of pandemics, led to questions of optimal deployment of control methods. With advances of computing power it is now possibly to model all individuals in any given country and there is even some progress in parameter estimation for such massive agent-based models. At the other end of the spectrum, advances in cellular and molecular techniques make it possible to study evolution of pathogens and their emergence.
There was clearly an interest in plant epidemiology at this Epidemics conference – Sarah Gurr gave a fascinating keynote lecture on emerging infection of crop plants. Two (out of 78) plenary lectures covered the subject of plant epidemics: Jun Nakabayashi talked about mathematical models for evolutionary interaction between rice and rice blast whereas Adam Kleczkowski presented his and the Cambridge group work on risk and parameter estimation. There were two posters dealing explicitly with plant epidemics, by Marco Pautasso et al. on modelling effects of structural changes in horticultural trade and by David Pleydell et al. on Sharka epidemics in orchards. Adam Kleczkowski’s poster on optimal control of cryptic epidemics was also partially motivated by plant epidemics, mainly by spread and control of citrus canker. All plant-related talks and posters attracted attention of epidemiologists and modellers, even though we were clearly in the minority.
Can the two strands of epidemiology interact more? There is an immense potential for exchange of ideas. As pointed out by Sarah Gurr, plants are the basis of all foodchains on our planet and any threat to them is of an utmost importance to the stability of ecosystems and food security. Plant systems are inherently characterised by multi-host and multi-pathogen interactions driven by environmental forcing and by evolution of pathogens pressure. This is also clearly an area where animal and human epidemiology needs to explore more. One of the conclusions of the Epidemics meeting was the need for explicitly including within-host dynamics and evolution of pathogens. Most of models discussed at the conference basically ignored environmental forcing – yet this is one of the factors with which plant epidemiologists are very familiar. Plants also offer an unsurpassed opportunity for experimentation – free of ethical considerations and with potential for high replicability and excellent control of environmental and genetic factors.
Are epidemiological models and concepts like R0 important for plant diseases? I think the answer is emphatically yes, but more work on genetics of the pathogen-host system and on the environmental drivers for the disease spread is needed. Plants are perhaps not as cute as animals and – unlike avian or swine flu – plant diseases will probably never make the national headlines. Yet, there is no reason why we should feel inferior compared to animal and human epidemiologists. In contrast, we should be making more effort in communicating our research more widely. Perhaps in two years time one whole session at the next Epidemics conference in Boston will be devoted to plant epidemics.
Adam Kleczkowski, University of Stirling Annual meeting of the British Society for Medical Mycology, Exeter, April 2010 The 46th annual meeting of the British Society for Medical Mycology was held at the University of Exeter from 18-20th April, 2010. Over 60 delegates from all around UK attended this meeting.
Initially delegates from all over the world had confirmed their participation but unfortunately, like thousands of other people, they also became the victim of volcanic ash disruption and couldn’t fly.
The opening session was marked by the special lecture on Medical Mycology by Dr Frank Odds, who not only highlighted the brilliant work done in the field of medical mycology over the last 40 years but also pointed out that no significant progress has been made in developing reliable diagnostics for the invasive fungal diseases. He hoped that in future scientists will become more successful in directing basic research to address the problems clinicians encounter with fungal diseases. This lecture was followed by the poster session where I presented my poster ‘Incidence and characterisation of Aspergillus fumigatus mycoviruses’. As this topic was different for the majority of people, since it showed the presence of dsRNA mycoviruses with 12 different profiles in 378 A. fumigatus isolates (clinical and environmental), it gained lots of interest among the delegates and everybody appreciated the fact that the first dsRNA mycovirus has been characterised, and inquired about the effect of this dsRNA virus on the fitness of the host. I informed them that the experiments are in progress and they will get the answer in the near future.
Four sessions were held next day, in which the delegates presented their work regarding fungal infections and the role of surgery to overcome these infections. Dr Roy Hay (International Foundation for Dermatology) gave a detailed description about the mucormycosis and zygomycosis infections and their main causes which included the members of the genera Rhizopus, Rhizomucor, and Absidia, although other related fungi may also be involved e.g. Cunninghamella and Mortierella. In the fourth session, the foundation lecture entitled ‘Sexual reproduction in fungal evolution and virulence’ was presented by Dr Joseph Heitmen, the only delegate from the US, and explained how microbial pathogens evolve, develop drug resistance, and interact with the host which involves both genetic change and exchange. He explained how sexual identity is defined and the modes and roles of sexual reproduction in virulence, production of infectious propagules, and the generation of the diversity are focused. The lecture was followed by the BSMM annual dinner and sing song which is a tradition of the BSMM. All the participants enjoyed and sang the songs. The piano was played by Dr Frank Odds who did a wonderful job and all the participants praised him for his piano playing skills.
Next day in the morning sessions the post docs from different labs presented their work and this was followed by prize distribution for the best poster.
The meeting was concluded by a vote of thanks from the organisers to the delegates for their participation with the hope that they will meet again next year. Finally I would like to thank BSPP for contributing to the costs of the meeting and also the conference committee for organising such a nice conference in the difficult times they faced due to extenuating circumstances.
Atif Jamal Imperial College, London.