Originally Released: September, 1999
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About 400 infectious disease experts from around the world will gather in Baltimore this month to share the latest information on how to combat two common forms of bacteria, known for their ability to cause a tremendous amount of discomfort. One type of bacteria, called Campylobacter, is the leading cause of diarrhea worldwide. The other, Helicobacter pylori, has been linked to ulcers and stomach cancer and is one of the most common infections in humans.
The meeting on Campylobacter, Helicobacter and Related Organisms will be held in Baltimore at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel on September 12-16. Microbiologists and other scientists from 27 countries are expected to attend the conference, which is being held for the first time in the United States.
Found in raw or undercooked chicken, Campylobacter is one of the most common causes of diarrhea in the United States and worldwide. It is of special concern to the military, because "it affects 20 to 30 percent of military personnel deployed overseas," according to Harry L.T. Mobley, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
"Developing a safe and effective vaccine is a high priority for the military, and this conference will enable military and civilian researchers to exchange important information to help prevent and treat illnesses caused by this common bacteria," says Dr. Mobley, who organized the conference.
While vaccines are being developed to provide protection, education is also a key to preventing illnesses caused by the Campylobacter bacteria. Poultry experts will be on hand to discuss food safety and reinforce the importance of cooking chicken thoroughly to eliminate dangerous bacteria.
Recently, researchers finished mapping the genetic blueprint of Campylobacter, which may lead to a better understanding of how the bacteria become harmful.
The link between another infectious agent, Helicobacter pylori, and stomach ulcers was discovered in 1982 by Australian researchers Barry Marshall and Robin Warren. They successfully treated many ulcer patients with antibiotics, but it was many years before their groundbreaking work was taken seriously.
About half of all the world's population is infected with Helicobacter pylori, making it one of the most common infections of humans. Researchers have also recently found a strong link between Helicobacter pylori and stomach cancer. "The stomach cancer risk posed by the Helicobacter pylori bacteria is similar to the lung cancer risk posed by smoking," says Dr. Mobley, an expert in Helicobacter. He says for these reasons, it is very important for people with stomach ulcers to get an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment with antibiotics. It could save their lives.
The conference will also include workshops on genetics, diagnostics, immune response and spotlight the ten best papers from junior scientists.
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