Mid October saw the Humbugs travelling to Newcastle to attend their second Nutrition, Immune Tolerance and Allergy in Early Life Conference, held at the awesome Centre For Life. After battling the rain and flood induced crazy Newcastle traffic – saying (not for the first time) “I will definitely get the metro next time!” – we were not disappointed.
The morning session was full of informative lectures on topics pertaining to gut microbes, feeding, the gastrointestinal immune system and the composition of breast milk. The afternoon sessions had us engaging our brains to work out the mount of protein required in preterm infant feed, and the correct composition of feed to ensure the nutrition needs of the infants were met – an interesting insight for the non-medics in the group! The highlight for me was a workshop on ‘Probiotics risks and benefits’. The workshop was led by Dr Stefan Zalewski is a Neonatal Higher Specialist Trainee undertaking postgraduate study at the Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, we are presently working with him on a Bifidobacteria sepsis case study.
The Workshop followed the experience of a preterm infant from our joint case study, where sepsis had been contracted after the administration of probiotics. Following the data provided most in the group agreed that probiotics were beneficial. However, the ethical considerations of parental consent and ensuring the risks are known provided more diverse views. Various studies such as: ProPrems and PiPs were examined as reliable and informative studies. The overarching area of concern was the lack of quality control around probiotics as they are at present not regulated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The implications for probiotic loads and potential contamination is therefore an area to be further investigated.
Attendance at conferences such as these are so important for all levels of researchers – to meet and talk with people with similar interests but often very different approaches is stimulating and can break open a research area. I’m not sure we will be quite so relaxed when we have to present at our first conference!