When temperatures in Calgary once again dropped below -20˚C late January, several members from the Gilleard, Wasmuth and Finney labs escaped to a warmer dwelling: Indian Rocks Beach, Florida. Here we attended a conference focussing on anything related to drug treatment of parasitic worms: Anthelminthics III, from discovery to resistance.
Edina and I took the opportunity to spend the weekend prior in sunny Florida, racing from Tampa to Miami, Key West, back up to Miami, the Everglades, Naples, Tampa and finally Indian Rocks Beach. One of the highlights for me was the amount of alligators we saw – Figure 1. Not on our hovercraft tour – with a grand total of one — but next to the highway! Over one hundred, and that’s being conservative. They were there warming up in the sun. According to our shuttle driver this was because they were warm blooded, but he’s forgiven for that, as he was a great tour guide, pointing us to dolphins in Old Tampa Bay and showing pictures of his impressive collection of historic cars.
Figure 1 – Alligators right next to the highway, and in the everglades showing of its perfect pearly whites, which surely come in handy when snacking on beautiful pelicans
The damage of last year’s hurricane Irma was still clearly visible, especially in the Keys. During the Everglades tour we were told this was the biggest storm since Hurricane Dora in the early sixties. Given that fact, it was impressive how quickly the debris has been cleaned. They piled all damaged goods neatly next to the roads and were busy removing it all. The main destruction was visible on the less busy beaches, where dead marine vegetation and a washed up motorcycle were silent witnesses of the massive destruction that had taken place – Figure 2.
Figure 2 – Damage by hurricane Irma on a small beach in the Keys.
After this trip, a pleasant surprise was waiting for me at Indian Rocks Beach. The conference organizers had arranged for discounted prices at the hotel, which led to us booking there en masse. This in turn resulted in a super luxurious upgrade for several of the attendees. Rather than a two-queen bedroom with kitchen and additional pull out bed, some of us, including lucky me, got a King Villa Loft (amongst others a two floor studio with marina view and so much closet space, I regretted bringing just hand luggage – Figure 3). So when another busy day was over I now had to choose between tasty fish in one of the restaurants close by, or a relaxing night in my private Jacuzzi. Finding a good balance between the two, I must say this has been the most relaxing conference I have ever been to!
Figure 3 – My humble abode.
The conference was perfectly tailored to my project, for which I am looking for the effects of drug treatment on the Haemonchus contortus genome. The program was very diverse, with something for everyone: drug discovery and development from both an industry and academic point of view, including phenotypic studies of the effect of different compounds on motility for example, but also die hard computational modelling of metabolic networks by HPI-alumnus Dave Curran.
Day three of the conference was a merry mix of talks by friends and collaborators. Umer, an alumnus from the Gilleard lab, as well as James and I gave talks, along with Eric Andersen, who attended our HPI conference last year, and several of Dr. Gilleards UK and US collaborators. The two morning sessions showed neatly how much progress is being made using the high quality H. contortus reference genome to identify genomic regions under selection due to drug treatment in the ongoing search for mutations underlying drug resistance against several classes of anthelmintics. Caenorhabditis elegans and Teladorsagia circumcincta were other worms that took the stage, all illustrating how the use of natural field populations can help improve our understanding of the genetics of anthelmintic resistance.
Figure 4 – Seafood galore.
Before going back to landlocked Calgary, I decided to treat myself to a rather large meal of fresh sea treats, as seen here in the picture. It was a challenge, but I managed (aside from the unnecessary fillers: potato and sausage – Figure 4). Thank you HPI for funding my attendance at this great conference, and for those of you working on anything related to anthelmintics, keep an eye out for Anthelmintics IV on 2020 – this will be held late January/early February, traditionally at another warm location in the US, to ensure maximum attendance!