In 1980,leading vibrio researchers working in the area of microbial ecology and public health met in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to convene a unique conference entitled "Vibrios in the Environment." We believed it was time to revisit the critical public health issues presented by vibrios, especially as regards food safety, globalization and climate change, is long overdue. For these reasons, an international steering committee has planned "Vibrios in the Environment 2010", a conference to be held in Biloxi, Mississippi, November 7-12, 2010. The meeting will bring together university researchers and educators, government regulatory personnel, industry representatives, and extension professionals. It will also include a large number of graduate and post-doctoral students, who we endeavor to be involved in all aspects of the conference.
NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: In 1980, leading vibrio researchers working in the area of microbial ecology and public health met in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to convene a unique conference entitled "Vibrios in the Environment." The proceedings were published in 1984 by John Wiley and Sons Inc., and firmly established that a number of human pathogenic Vibrio spp. including V. cholerae, V. parahaemolyticus and V. vulnificus, were indigenous to marine and estuarine environments where much of the seafood supply is produced and where most recreational exposure occurs. In the following 30 years, vibrio research has increased exponentially and these organisms have often been at the forefront of basic scientific discoveries and the global public health debate. Foremost has been elucidating the role of vibrios in human disease. Vibrio vulnificus alone is responsible for 95% of all seafood borne deaths in this country. Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections are extremely common (believed to be >10,000 cases/year in the US), and V. cholerae remains a worldwide scourge. Other prominent issues initiated by vibrio research include discoveries on the viable but nonculturable state, transfer of virulence genes by phages, identification of ballast discharge as vehicle for pandemic spread, and climate change resulting in an expansion of the seasonal and geographical range of diseases. In spite of this increased attention on this genus and the spectacular discoveries over the past several decades, there has not been another major conference focusing on vibrios in the environment or their implications on public health, especially food safety. There is unprecedented activity in the US and globally to control the risk of vibrios and yet in most countries illnesses have not decreased, or as in the United States, are increasing. Furthermore, the vibrios are still regarded by most marine microbiologists as the dominant culturable bacteria in the ocean and there is good reason to believe that global warming may be increasing their presence. Indeed, it has repeatedly been demonstrated that vibrios present public health challenges that were not imagined in 1980. Other areas of concern involve aquaculture and the role Vibrio spp. represent in this arena. This is a major area of interest for the USDA, which has supported several marine shrimp aquaculture projects since the 1980s in Southern and Gulf Coast states.
APPROACH: The Steering Committee is composed of 17 internationally recognized researchers and government representatives from 11 countries. The conference is divided into Ecology of Vibrios, Human Disease, Nonhuman Disease, Seafood Safety, Public Health and Related Factors, Genomics, and Role of Vibrio spp. in the Degradation of Crude Oil. A total of 53 speakers will contribute to these 7 sessions, and each session also includes a roundtable discussion. The conference is being coordinated by the Joint Office for Science Support (JOSS) of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), and is being held at The Beau Rivage hotel in Biloxi, MS. We have negotiated with the American Society for Microbiology to publish the proceedings of the conference as a monograph, similar to that published following the 1980 meeting.The "Vibrios in the Environment, 2010" conference is designed to address significant issues related to food safety and disease, both human and non-human, as they relate to Vibrio spp. These issues include aspects which are increasingly realized to be important to disease and food safety, such as the microbial ecology and socioeconomic considerations of Vibrio spp. The meeting will bring together a variety of food safety professionals to identify targeted areas in food safety that can best be addressed using an integrated approach. It thus encompasses all of the recently published National Integrated Food Safety Initiative goals to "support food safety projects that demonstrate an integrated approach to solving problems in applied food safety research, education, or extension". We believe this conference will address these goals by enhancing collaboration among food safety researchers, educators, and extension professionals by presenting the latest information in the field of food safety directed not only to academic researchers, but to shellfish producers, processors, regulators, and ultimately to consumers. Thus, we hope to identify future research, outreach, and educational needs in the food safety arena. The same is true for the role of vibrios in aquaculture safety, which will be supplementing and perhaps even surpassing wild-catch fisheries in the near future. We also anticipate that this conference will offer considerable benefit to students, from undergraduate to post-doctoral, who we expect to comprise a significant portion of the attendees. Finally, we expect wide dissemination of the scientific offerings of this conference in the form of a proceedings monograph.