Our annual International Pathology Day event 2020 had the theme 'Infection through the lens of COVID-19 with an International viewpoint' and proceeded with a warm welcome from Professor Jo Martin, immediate past president, to an audience that spanned nearly every continent. Enabled by the prowess of virtual technology, The Pathologist and sponsor Sonic Healthcare UK collaborated with us for another year. We were also pleased to have a newcomer to our alliances, The British Society for Haematology (BSH).
The immediate past president acknowledged how globally it had been a tough year and how she could not be prouder of members' responses across the globe. Speaking for the first-time at International Pathology Day, in his role as President-elect, Dr Mike Osborn spoke of the College's strong history of collaboration with other countries and institutions worldwide, saying:
My aim as president will be to develop these international links and collaborations even further to develop the techniques we have learned through this COVID pandemic to allow easy access for our members around the world and to facilitate teaching and learning using online methods. By doing this we will be able to benefit from the expertise of all our members and colleagues no matter where in the world, they are, allowing teaching to be provided by inspirational teachers from across the globe. The technology is already available, and the spirit of co-operation is already shared by us all, as today and other similar events demonstrate.
The virtual floor was then in turn passed to five highly distinguished speakers from Germany, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Denmark, and the UK. Watch the talks they delivered via our International Response to COVID-19 page.
The first, Evangelos Kotsopoulos, CEO for Sonic Healthcare Germany and Continental Europe, shared some insights about how early COVID-19 testing contributed to a robust pandemic response in Germany and saved the Bundesliga along the way, explaining how this was achieved. On May 16th 2020, the Bundesliga became the first professional sports league in the western world to resume playing football. Work done over 6-weeks by a task force resulted in the establishment of an extremely meticulous hygiene and testing concept, including detail right through to testing and escalation protocols. These even included guidelines as well as for private behaviour – travel contact for players, coaches, support staff amounting to 1,400 individuals.
Professor Ali Hajeer, laboratory director at the King Abdulaziz Medical City, took us on a fascinating journey into serology testing for MERS-COV and SARS CoV2 infections. He started with how Coronaviruses are enveloped single stranded RNA viruses, moving through to how antibodies to MERS and SARS-CoV2 decline with time. He continued with the rapid decay of anti-SARS-CoV2 antibodies, and what effect this phenomenon has on herd immunity or immunity passport, and how we can utilise serology in coronavirus infections.
The former talks dove-tailed nicely into the remarks made by the next speaker Professor Tahir Pillay, professor and chair, Department of Chemical Pathology and head of Pathology, University of Pretoria, who gave the South African perspective on Covid-19: developing new Diagnostic Approaches. He covered the evolution of the South African response to the pandemic – explaining that it was like trying to build a ship while you are sailing in it, outlining the government measures and the challenges for pathology and laboratory medicine. He explained the three prongs of COVID testing and also touched on the potential role for rapid antigen testing and the role of nanobodies.
The final talk delivered something a bit different as the joint speakers Dr Martha Betson, University of Surrey School of Veterinary Medicine and Dr Pikka Jokelainen, Statens Serum Institut, spoke about endemic pathogens and international research projects during a pandemic: Toxoplasma gondii and international research project TOXOSOURCES as an example. Toxoplasma gondii was described as a beautiful and fascinating parasite that deserves respect as a pathogen and also for its success as a parasite. The presentation also covered the life-cycle of Toxoplasma, the impact of transmission during COVID-19 and what it looks like in humans and animals, and then sharing details of a research project on Toxoplasma, called the One Health EJP project involving 38 organisations and 19 countries.
Excitement stirred after lunch as the winners of the International Pathology Day digital poster competition, sponsored by Sonic Healthcare UK, were revealed by Dr Rachael Liebmann, OBE. Congratulations went to the first prize winner, Professor Dimitris Grammatopoulos and second prize winner, Nithin Krishnan. Cangul Seran, Vuyelwa Nkomo, Mohammed Islam, Lisa Choo, and Anisa Hussain were awarded third place by judges, Dr Mike Osborn, Professor Jo Martin and Dr Shubha Allard. Beneath here, from left to right are the poster entries that took first, second and third place in the competition. You can take a closer look at them by clicking on the thumbnails.
Following the presentations, the mediator, Professor Tahir Pillay, and panellists Professor Jo Martin, Evangelos Kotsopoulos, Professor Ali Hajeer, Dr Pikka Jokelainen and Dr Josh Wright Consultant Haematologist in Sheffield and Vice President for BSH, took to the roundtable for a multi-faceted discussion on the importance of international information exchange, especially in a pandemic. The covered areas included screening, diagnosis, treatment selection, and how health monitoring differs between countries and, how against the setting of COVID-19, it is more important than ever not to place boundaries on our ability to learn from one another.
A special musical tribute to pathology and healthcare professionals worldwide, ended a fantastic day on a lovely note as singer-songwriter Rod Gozzett played a cover of the Stereophonics, Maybe Tomorrow.
All four talks and the roundtable discussion are available to watch on-demand from the International Response to COVID-19 page of the College website. You can also enjoy time browsing the splendid International Pathology Day digital poster competition entries.
The hashtag #IPD2020 was used across social media platforms by many members and non-members of the College to champion, raise awareness and to celebrate the work of pathologists and laboratory medicine professionals all around the world. Our pick of some of these posts show just how widely the occasion was acknowledged.
You can view more of the many wonderful tweets from around the world at hashtag #IPD2020
Huge appreciation goes out to everyone who supported International Pathology Day 2020. We look forward to celebrating the day with you again in November 2021.