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article imageMicrobiologists become more 'cultured' after annual conference Special

By Tim Sandle     Nov 14, 2019 in Science
Nottingham - The importance of a contamination control strategy and a science-based approach to addressing microbial issues are the key elements for any pharmaceutical microbiologist’s toolbox. These were the main lessons from the Pharmig annual conference.
Each year the Pharmaceutical Microbiology Interest Group (Pharmig) hosts an international gathering of microbiologists in the U.K., providing a forum for education, discussion and debate. The 2019 event was held in a rainy Nottingham. Despite the unusual dampness and chill outside, inside the incubation temperature was just right for microbial activity.
This year's event was chaired by David Keen (Ecolab and Pharmig chairman).
Pharmig chair David Keen addresses the 2019 conference.
Pharmig chair David Keen addresses the 2019 conference.
READ MORE: Microbiologists 'colonize' Nottingham to discuss hot topics
Day one of the event has previously been covered by Digital Journal. On day two, then conference began with a presentation delivered by Laurent Leblanc, who works in the R&D department at bioMerieux. Leblanc looked at the challenges around counting microbial colonies. While this may seem straightforward, Leblan presented experimental data to show the errors that can arise based on colony size; the way that colonies are positioned on an agar plate; and with the type of contrast and light-source. Inaccurate detection can lead to errors, when it comes to the evaluation of medicines, and place the testing laboratory in difficulty with regulatory agencies.
Microbiological culture media  a colorful array for growing microbes  on show at the Pharmig 2019 co...
Microbiological culture media, a colorful array for growing microbes, on show at the Pharmig 2019 conference.
After demonstrating how these errors were replicated across three test laboratories Leblanc looked at automated plate counting technology, where digital imaging and artificial intelligence can be applied to increase the probability of accurate detection.
The second presentation came from Tim Sandle and this looked at the new international standards issued over the past year, including many that impact upon microbiologists. The greatest focus was given to standards that affect sterile products manufacturing. Sandle outlined the key criteria required for making a regulatory license submission, in relation to sterilization methods.
The 2019 Pharmig annual conference provided plenty of opportunities for technical discussions.
The 2019 Pharmig annual conference provided plenty of opportunities for technical discussions.
Sandle also provided information about standards that are currently out for public comment, including a new recombinant method for endotoxin based on a recombinant protein factor c, based on the Limulus horseshoe crab.
Pharmig delegates enjoying a breakout  following the morning lectures.
Pharmig delegates enjoying a breakout, following the morning lectures.
The third talk was Donald Singer, who sits on the microbiology committee of the United States Pharmacopeia. Singer looked at the control of raw materials in general and with setting microbial specifications specifically.
Delegates looking on as a presentation is delivered at the Pharmig conference 2019.
Delegates looking on as a presentation is delivered at the Pharmig conference 2019.
Singer’s presentation included encouragement to the audience that they – as microbiologists – can influence the way that specifications are set, and opportunities exist to discuss such issues with those who write official compendia and regulators.
This was followed by a presentation from Miriam Guest (Astra Zeneca) which looked at how a sustainable microbiology laboratory (and pharmaceutical company) in general can be designed and operated.
Miriam Guest addressing the 2019 Pharmig conference.
Miriam Guest addressing the 2019 Pharmig conference.
The fifth presentation cam from Erin Paton, who works for Charles River. This presentation looked at how a microbial contamination control strategy can be designed and implemented. One of the important points made was about the trending of microorganisms and drawing inferences from patterns, especially where such patterns alter over time. Reacting to data promptly, in order to prevent contamination incidences from getting worse
was a key message.
An array of apparatus for the microbiological monitoring of cleanrooms.
An array of apparatus for the microbiological monitoring of cleanrooms.
The seventh presentation came from Helena Windsor and it related to mycoplasmas, tracing the history of testing from culture-based methods to methods based on nucleic acid testing. Mycoplasmas are bacteria that lack a cell wall around their cell membranes. Several species are pathogenic in humans, including M. pneumoniae.
A conference delegate seeks expert consultation at one of the exhibition stands.
A conference delegate seeks expert consultation at one of the exhibition stands.
The final presentation of the day came from Jeanne Moldenhauer, considering fungi and the adverse impact of these higher-life forms upon cleanroom operations. This included a focus on sporidical disinfection strategies.
As with day one the presentations were interspersed with open discussion sessions, where hot topics were discussed, and problems shared across areas like cleanroom environmental monitoring, microbial identification and disinfection.
Pharmig committee member Laura Guardi on the podium at the conference.
Pharmig committee member Laura Guardi on the podium at the conference.
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