Immunoparasitology conference in the quiet town of Woods Hole

The Woods Hole Immunoparasitology Conference was held over three days in the small town of Woods Hole, in Massachusetts, at one of the largest Oceanographic Institutions. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side and it has been cloudy and rainy most of the time we were there.

As I have recently joined the immunoparasitology field it was really useful for me to attend this conference to become more familiar with current research and techniques used in the field. As this conference is on a smaller scale, it offered a good overview of the most recent unpublished data other scientists in the field are working on. The attendance of ecologists, who are working with parasites, made the conference particularly interesting this year.

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The conference started on a Sunday evening with really interesting opening talks on the immunologist’s view by Dr. Chris Hunter and on the ecologist’s view by Dr. Nicole Mideo. Following the keynote speakers we dived into the first session of the event with the topic of co-infections. This was particularly important for me as my research is focused on Helminths and Toxoplasma co-infection. I enjoyed the talk by Melanie Clerc from Edinburgh, UK, on “Co-infection and immunity affect parasite burden in the wild; insights from a wild wood mouse system”.

The first full day of the conference started early and offered talks on Leishmania, myeloid cells and malaria. The talk by Dr. Mark Viney on “The immune lives of wild mice” was particularly interesting. They characterised the immune status of a large number of wild mice, which is not as well known as for their laboratory relatives. The poster session was every evening of the conference and I had the chance to present some of the work from the Finney lab. In the evening, poster presentations went into social hours, discussion and conversations lasted until late at night accompanied by a couple of drinks.

The last day of the conference offered talks on Helminths, host defense, lymphocytes and immunopathology. One of the most interesting talks for me was by Sarah Budischak on the fitness costs of helminth infection in African buffalo. As well, I was looking forward to hearing Dr. Dionne Robinson’s talk entitled “Biological sex is a major determinant of the immune response to Toxoplasma gondii”, and the great overview of Dr. John Mansfield’s work on African Trypanosomiasis. As I have been working with trypanosomes in the past I found another talk on Trypanosomiasis fascinating by Dr. Paul Capewell from Glasgow, UK. He discussed asymptomatic trypanosomiasis in patients and its consequences.

Before dinner we had a chance to look around in the area and finally enjoy a little bit of sunshine. The conference closed with another amazing dinner offering wide variety of choices, and the night finished with drinks and dancing in addition to great science discussions.

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I found this conference very useful for me. Besides the great discussions, I have managed to improve my knowledge on current immunoparasitology research. As well, I heard several talks relevant to my Toxoplasma work. I also wanted to highlight the nice food and the great service we all appreciated during the three days.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank NSERC CREATE HPI for the funding to attend this conference.

Edina Szabo

Postdoctoral Fellow (Finney Lab)

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