Coming together for microbiology
From forensic post-mortems to veterinary pathogen drug resistance – two burgeoning microbiological fields promise much. But before they can deliver, specialists need to come together.
From forensic post-mortems to veterinary pathogen drug resistance – two burgeoning microbiological fields promise much. But before they can deliver, specialists need to come together say Professor Luca Guardabassi and Professor Amparo Fernandez-Rodriguez
Microbiology is evolving rapidly in the forensics field. The introduction of the ESCMID Study Group for Forensic and Post-mortem Microbiology (ESGFOR) allows these two important sectors to come together and help to improve identification and characterisation of disease ultimately improving prevention and thus hopefully saving lives. Research in veterinary microbiology is crucial towards understanding the risks of disease transmission from animals to humans and vice versa, which is the focus of the new ESCMID Study Group for Veterinary Microbiology (ESGVM). Although being a fairly new field, forensic microbiology is evolving rapidly. Its spectrum is very wide, ranging from identifying criminals to elucidating outbreaks and helping to characterise particular pathogenic microbes.
In terms of specific goals of the new ESGFOR, we hope to create a new network of microbiologists, virologists, anthropologists and archaeologists working in the field of forensic medicine. The study group will work together with medical examiners and judicial authorities and will show them how important post-mortem microbiology examinations are for identifying the cause of death aiming towards prevention in the future. The discovery of the responsible pathogen should help to enable the implementation of correct strategies for treatment, in addition to vaccine administration in some areas. The overall goal is to establish European guidance for standardised microbiological sampling in forensic cases.
The newly formed Veterinary Microbiology Group aims to advance and optimise the organisation of methods for diagnosis and antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST) of veterinary pathogens. The group will create a European network for the surveillance of zoonoses (diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans) and antimicrobial resistance in animal populations, as well as for early detection of new or exotic infectious agents using animals as sentinels of human disease. This networking forum for veterinary microbiologists is crucial for sharing and supporting the best antimicrobial stewardship and infection control practices in this field.
A further important goal of the group is to optimise formulation and dosing regimens of veterinary anti-infectives, as this will improve clinical efficacy and reduce resistance development. At present, antibiotics are extremely overused in veterinary and livestock environments and offer a major risk to humans through the development of highly resistant bacteria in these animal populations. ESGFOR is establishing new links with the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes (ENFSI) and ESGVM is set to deliver advice on the control and prevention of veterinary and zoonotic infections to agencies across Europe including EMA, EFSA and ECDC.
Membership is open to anyone working in the fields covered by the study group, subject to the approval of the Study Group Executive Committee. Interested professionals from any country can participate in a study group as long as they are ESCMID members. To enroll please go to www.escmid.org/research_projects/study_groups
Professor Amparo Fernandez-Rodriguez, from the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences in Madrid, is the Chair of ESGFOR
Professor Luca Guardabassi, from the University of Copenhagen, is the Chair of ESGVM