Welsh Research and Education Network
Hot topics in research and medical education, in Wales and beyond
Dr Chris Course
The European Respiratory Society held their annual Congress for 2018 in Porte de Versailles conference centre, Paris. The European Respiratory Society is a non-profit organisation which aims to promote lung health and drive standards for respiratory medicine globally. In addition to publishing the European Respiratory Journal and educational handbooks, the annual congress is the largest respiratory conference in the world, covering topics on respiratory health and disease from fetal life to old age.
Having registered months ago, (with an excellent discount on the registration fee for the honour of being under 40!) the congress program arrived in my inbox a few weeks ago, and to say it was overwhelming was an understatement. There were numerous concurrent sessions, across three floors of the conference venue, with special seminars and workshops on topics from non-invasive ventilation in adults, to bronchoscopy, lung ultrasound and inhalers for COPD. Having a paediatric/neonatal interest made it much simpler, as once you had filtered out all of the adult program, there was a manageable range of choices!
The whole conference ran across four to five days, with the majority of the paediatric program running across the middle three days. The quality of presentations was high, and the speakers were clearly eminent in their field. Despite being a “European” conference there were speakers from across the world. I had gone with Professor Sailesh Kotecha and members of the research team at the School of Child Health, Cardiff University, and Professor Iolo Doull from the Paediatric Respiratory Medicine team in Cardiff.
The first day we attended sessions on Prematurity and Lung Disease which included work presented by David Gallacher (Neonatal GRID trainee, Wales) from work he conducted with the School of Child Health at Cardiff University looking at pro-inflammatory cascades in the Preterm lung. Presentations also included work on Ureaplasma treatment for Preterms, animal models looking at effects of different durations of mechanical ventilation on long term alveolar structure and the Forced Oscillatory Technique for real-time assessment of preterm baby’s lung mechanics. The afternoon had an excellent Paediatrics Year in Review session looking at the top literature from the last year, the highlight of which was Dr Ian Balfour-Lynn (Royal Brompton, London) presenting the last year’s work on Cystic Fibrosis disease modifying drugs like Ivacaftor and Orkambi.
The second day started with the Paediatric Grand Round where challenging cases and unusual diagnoses were presented and discussed, and this brought a good contrast to some of the talks from the first day on mechanistic and translational science. This as followed later in the day with a Lungs on Fire session where quick fire case presentations and questions were put to a panel of experts and the audience with the opportunity for us to vote along – this gave me confidence that some timers no-one knows what the right answer should be! Another session looked at the infectious causes of wheeze and asthma and our current knowledge in their manipulation. Talks included work on the microbiome of the upper airways, and our current evidence base for the treatment of pre-school wheeze, and it looks like Montelukast is out again! A running theme across the first two days was the quantity of work looking at azithromycin for the treatment of a range of conditions, and although lots of the evidence was convincing, I was occasionally left wondering if it’s the current fashionable treatment or a drug with further unexplored potential.
The second day ended with the paediatric dinner, which started with a boat trip down the Seine, followed by dinner at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. This was a great evening and opportunity to escape the conference venue. As much as I enjoy a good conference, the inside of a presentation hall is pretty much the same wherever you are, and it was nice to get out and see a little of the City of Lights. Dinner was interesting (the starter consisted of a mixture of tuna steak and strawberries…) but so was the opportunity to meet new people from across Europe and the world.
The last day (slightly tired!) we got in nice and early, mainly because our posters had to go up! After a coffee and a croissant, we headed to the first session on Prenatal Origins of Respiratory and Atopic Disorders which included data from the COPSAC (Copenhagen birth cohort) studies and animal models looking at how maternal smoking, and interestingly “vaping” may affect offspring into adult life. It also highlighted the scientific, economic and clinical difficulties in managing such large birth cohort studies and how replicating results can be challenging. Following this, we attended a session on Advances in Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia. This covered pathophysiology of this rare and little understood disease and highlighted how genetic are changing diagnosis. However, it was rightly pointed out after the presentations that, much as with Cystic Fibrosis, the phenotypic variance of these genotypes is still not clearly understood, and the continuing importance of expert interpretation of histological samples and formation of centres of excellence to manage this condition.
We ended the ERS by having a walk through the exhibitors hall. There was a great ‘Game Zone’ where we could play with video laryngoscopes, bronchoscope and thoracic ultrasounds and it was great to have a go with bits of kits that we’d seen or heard about but had little experience with. Tutors were on hand thankfully to guide us through the finer details! We also had a look through the commercial and pharmaceutical exhibition areas, which looked more like a new car show at times (not sure a hologram is really required to advertise an inhaler) and there was a paucity of the free pens, but there were plenty of places to sit and have a quiet five minutes, which was much needed by this point!
Overall, the ERS Congress was a fantastic experience. Definitely the best organised, highest quality, best value meeting I’ve ever been to, and would thoroughly recommend to anyone with a respiratory interest.
Next year the congress is heading to Madrid, check out www.ersnet.org for more information
Dr Annabel Greenwood