The “Cyprus Workshop on the Microbiome” was held at the University of Nicosia on 16 February 2019. The Workshop was organized by the Biological Society of Cyprus and co-organised and sponsored by the FEBS Science and Society Committee. The University of Nicosia and the Gastroenterology Society of Cyprus were also co-organisers and through them the Workshop was awarded points of continuous dental and medical education. Points of continuous professional development for scientists were awarded through the Biological Society of Cyprus, the Cyprus Association of Clinical Laboratory Directors, Biomedical and Clinical Laboratory Scientists, the Cyprus Dietetic and Nutrition Association, and the Institute of Biomedical Sciences (IBMS) Cyprus Branch.
The Workshop was opened by a ceremony chaired by Dr Pavlos Neophytou, Cyprus representative at FEBS Council and Dr Andreas Hadjihambis, secretary of the Cyprus Biological Society. Representatives of the state and of the co-organisers addressed the workshop, including an address by Prof. Emmanouil Fragkoulis, chairman of the FEBS Science and Society Committee.
Of special importance were the addresses by representatives of the Ministry of Education and Culture and of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Cyprus, because the Workshop was held under the auspices of the 2 Ministers. The Workshop sessions were chaired by members of academic leadership, including professors from the University of Cyprus and the European University Cyprus. The Workshop was attended by a total of about 200 persons: (a) About 80 biomedical scientists, doctors and University students. (b) About 40 secondary education teachers. (c) About 80 lyceum pupils with biology as their elective subject. (d) A small number of lay persons, who commented that the talks by all speakers were informative and at the same time in simple language that even a non-specialist could follow. This type of mixed audience is pertinent to the causes of the FEBS Science and Society Committee, i.e. to promote and pass the message of biomedical science to the wider society.
The 1st speaker was Prof. Minas Yiangou, from the Department of Biology, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.
He gave a general introductory talk to the workshop. He explained that life conquered the planet not only via battle and antagonism, but primarily via networking, symbiosis, cooperation and mutual exchanges between different organisms. From the time of his birth and during his lifetime every human being is colonized at different points-barriers (broncho-lung, gastroenterological, urogenital mucosas, skin, eyes) from an amazingly large biodiversity of autochthonous microbes, which compose the Microbiome, while the results of their symbiotic action extend to other internal body organs like the kidneys, heart and brain. Through the Symbiosis of the autochthonous microorganisms and the human-host, the latter acquires additional potential characteristics that allow him to maintain his homestasis and health. A disturbance of the homeostasis and the composition of the microbiome via the dominance of pathological microbes results in Dysbiosis, that leads to pathogenesis and disease such as autoimmune, cardiological, neurological and metabolic syndromes. It is important to understand the role of autochthonous microbes in homeostasis-health and in diseases that constitute the microbiome as a diagnostic and therapeutic target: Rebiosis or Anabiosis, is maintenance and enforcement of the healthy microbiome through the use of probiotic microorganisms, transplant of fecal microbiome or pre-biotic constituents.
The 2nd speaker was Dr Pavlos Neophytou, a European Specialist in Laboratory Medicine and executive director of the Mendel Center for Biomedical Sciences in Nicosia.
The 3rd speaker was Ms Ero Demetriou-Vavliti, a clinical microbiologist and director of a clinical laboratory in Larnaca.
Both speakers talked on laboratory tests for unhealthy microbiome, with special reference on vaginal and urethral samples. Dr Neophytou gave the paradigm of the urease test, which for example may be used for ureaplasma detection using the indicator phenol red, or for the helicobacter pylori breath test. He also talked about the HPV DNA test, in which he has made significant contributions by being the first scientist to deposit a sequence of type 145 in international databases. The HPV DNA test is now recognized by international (WHO) and European Guidelines as the most effective cervical cancer screening test that should be offered to all women aged 30 and over at least once every 5 years. He mentioned the problems created by overuse of antibiotics to treat urogenital and other infections and recommended that persons of moderate risk for urogenital infections are tested for them at regular intervals. Ms Demetriou-Vavliti explained that the normal vaginal flora is composed mainly by lactovacillii. The disturbance of the normal vaginal flora results from pathogens (bacteria, fungi/yeasts) that either were already there and have increased in load or have been transmitted by sexual intercourse. Laboratory microbiological investigation aims to evaluate the vaginal flora and through culture to isolate and type the microorganisms that cause problems. Microscopical examination includes a wet preparation to identify Trichomonas and gram stain to identify N. gonorrhea. Cultures in various media and specific biochemical tests are performed in order to isolate and type microorganisms. Before reporting results to medical doctors, the sensitivity or resistance to antibiotics is also determined.
The 4th speaker was Dr George Potamites, a medical doctor and registered specialist in Internal Medicine and Gastroentrerology.
He explained that the human gastroenterological microbiome is composed of more than 1000 different bacteria, and that each person has his/her own unique combination of more than 200 bacteria. New genetic techniques allowed us to type the microbiome. Fecal microbiome transplantation is an important therapeutic intervention, not only for gastroenterological diseases but also for other diseases outside the gastroenterological system.
The 5th speaker was Dr Yorgos Apidianakis, an assistant professor at the Department of Biological Sciences of the University of Cyprus.
He explained that gut microbiome acts as a barrier to intestinal pathogens. Disturbances lead to antagonistic competitions and the establishment of pathogens can be detrimental to health. His group used Drosophila melanogaster as a model host to investigate the ability of 35 human intestinal bacterial strains in inducing intestinal regeneration and lethality. They identified Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Escherichia coli antagonizing each other in their ability to promote midgut regeneration and fly lethality. Oral antibiotic-induced dysbiosis and associated elimination of indigenous E. coli in mice, facilitates intestinal P. aeruginosa colonization and concomitant mouse mortality. This effect can be explained by glycolytic fermentation of sugars in E. coli and the production of lactic acid, which inhibits P. aeruginosa growth.
The 6th and last speaker was Prof. Mike Curtis, the Executive Dean of the Dental Institute and a Professor of Microbiology at King’s College, London, UK.
He talked about the microbial world inside the mouth. He explained that over a thousand different types of bacteria are able to colonise the human mouth and each of us will harbour 200-300 different species. There is evidence to suggest that significant benefits to the host are derived from these specialised bacterial communities that have evolved specifically to colonise the oral cavity. These include protection from colonisation by potentially harmful organisms and potentially very significant effects on cardiovascular health through the entero-salivary nitrate circuit whereby dietary nitrate is converted ultimately into the vasodilator, nitric oxide.
Dr Pavlos Neophytou
Chairman of the Cyprus Workshop on the Microbiome
European Specialist in Laboratory Medicine
Director of the Mendel Center for Biomedical Sciences