After 2 years without meeting, the Namur Research Pole in Infectiology (NaRePI) relaunched its annual conference!

After two years without being able to meet due to COVID-19, the Namur Research Pole in Infectiology (NaRePI) was pleased to held its traditional annual conference at the UNamur on May 17, 2022. The meeting gathered over ~90 researchers and students from the UNamur and from other Belgian universities (UCLouvain, UMons, VUB, KU Leuven and UGhent). The theme of this year's conference was "Escaping bugs, the role of basic research". How do pathogens manage to escape from natural host defenses, from vaccine-induced immune responses, from antibiotic treatment…? To address these questions and tackle the biggest challenges in infectious disease, basic science is needed. A better understanding of the virulence mechanisms and immune evasion strategies used by pathogens are indeed crucial for the development of new therapeutic approaches. 

For this fourth edition of the NaRePI meeting, five renowned scientists were invited to share their knowledge and latest research in the field of infectiology (see program).  The meeting was opened by Prof. Christoph Dehio (Biozentrum, University of Basel) who shed light on how α-proteobacteria synthesize and transport cyclic-β-glucans from the cytoplasm to the periplasm, these molecules being known to have diverse functions in bacterial adaptation and host interactions. Prof. Piet Maes (KU Leuven) focused on filoviruses (Ebola and Marburgvirus), causing zoonotic disease outbreaks in humans, and presented his studies towards identifying correlates of protection and developing countermeasures. Prof. Thomas Van Boeckel (ETH Zurich) delivered an overview of his work aiming to map antimicrobial resistance rates in low- and middle-income countries and raised awareness on the risk of using antibiotics in food animals. Prof. Coralie Fumeaux (Lausanne University Hospital) provided insights into how Pseudomonas aeruginosa resists to cell wall-targeting antibiotics, such as beta-lactams, through induction of a chromosomally encoded beta-lactamase. The meeting ended with a talk from Prof. Alba Silipo (University of Naples Federico II) who reported the elucidation of the structure of many complex microbial glycans, which is an essential step to understand their role in regulating the host immune response for example.

In addition to these keynote lectures, many young researchers also actively contributed to the event with six short talks, 15 poster flash talks and a dynamic poster session. Marine Lacritick, PhD student at NARILIS-UNamur in the teams of Prof. Stéphane Vincent (CBO) and Prof. Xavier De Bolle (URBM) was awarded the Best Short Talk for her brilliant communication entitled “Metabolic Glycoengineering : A strategy to label bacterial cell wall with synthetic analogues of D-mannose". The winner of the Best Poster prize was Alicia Egea Weiss, Master student in Molecular Microbiology at UNamur in the team of Prof. Francesco Renzi (URBM), for her poster "The FtsEX-EnvC-AmiC complex plays a major role in cell separation of Flavobacterium johnsoniae”.

NaRePI would like to thank everyone who was involved in making this meeting a success: our brilliant keynote lecturers, abstract-selected speakers, chair(wo)men, poster presenters and all participants, as well as the FNRS and the UNamur for their financial support. Looking forward to next edition in 2023!

Picture by Christophe Swijsen