Social distancing is the order of the day in times of coronavirus, also and especially for those who are doing research on the SARS-CoV-2 virus and sharing the results – like Dr. Tamir Abdelrahman. The head of the LNS’s Microbiology department gave a presentation during the three-day ECCVID conference at the end of September. While it was held online, its impact was certainly not less than if it had been a conventional, “face-to-face” event.
The ECCVID conference was organized by The European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ESCMID). This non-profit organization, founded in 1983 and based in Basel, Switzerland, is dedicated to improving the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of infection-related diseases. This is achieved by promoting and supporting research, education, training, and good medical practice.
ESCMID’s regular annual conference, ECCMID, is the largest scientific congress in the field of medical microbiology; under “normal” circumstances, it receives almost 15,000 visitors. More than 5,000 abstracts are submitted every year by researchers from many different countries hoping to present their scientific work there.
Tamir Abdelrahman: “ESCMID is one of the most important platforms of exchange worldwide for microbiologists. As a part of its efforts to share knowledge among international experts, ESCMID organised ECCVID as a virtual event to address COVID-19-related work. ECCVID featured a comprehensive scientific program that spanned a wide range of topics surrounding this emerging threat and offered opportunities to showcase the latest findings, share experiences and knowledge, and demonstrate practical techniques and guidance. Internationally renowned clinical microbiologists, infectious diseases specialists, and experts from related disciplines presented their work and the latest findings on COVID-19 during the virtual event.”
The LNS contributed to ECCVID in two ways. Besides the lecture by Dr. Tamir Abdelrahman entitled “Genomic mapping of SARS-CoV-2 using deep sequencing in Luxembourg”, the microbiologists from Dudelange contributed to an e-poster entitled “Nation-wide Assessment of Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection and Serology in Luxembourg” that was presented by Prof Rejko Krueger, the lead investigator of the CONVINCE study.
In his lecture, Dr. Abdelrahman presented the genetic analyses of 328 SARS-CoV-2 sequences obtained from COVID-19 positive samples in the period March-May 2020. The lecture underlined that the main lineage that is circulating in Luxembourg is the so-called B1 lineage, which is the most prevalent in Europe. The data also revealed that the two most frequent mutations D614G (S) and P323L (nsp12) have been identified in 94,1% of the sequences. Dr. Abdelrahman underlines that “these mutations are reported with increased transmissibility and infectivity in the scientific literature. However, it is difficult to assess the clinical significance of these mutations in the Luxembourgish population without associated clinical data: all of this shows that we are just beginning to get to know and understand COVID-19. This is precisely why it is important to make research on the virus as intensive as possible in Luxembourg and to exchange ideas with colleagues worldwide.”