A global view

This year, the Global Respiratory Infection Partnership (GRIP) moved location to Thailand to enhance the focus on disparities between the developed and the developing world.

Opening the meeting, Professor John Oxford began his session by challenging the audience to think about the generation of new consumers emerging: the ‘Game of Thrones’ generation, prominent in Time magazine, he said. This cluster of consumers are vastly different from previous generations. They communicate in different ways, they are not connected to the mainstream media, and they pose a challenge for us to engage. Yet they are a powerful force, as governments around the world are recognizing, and therefore connecting with this audience is critical to future success.

"I suspect this is the group that’s going to change things scientifically as well" Professor Oxford

When it comes to looking at the bigger picture, Professor Oxford drew the GRIP advisers to a painting called the Triumph of Death, by Bruegel, from the 16th century. The critical image is the pale horse and the pale rider which represent infection. Infection is the critical thing that history can teach us: death will always triumph. Here the WHO have created a threat list, based on all bacteria, and the threat to human health, said Professor Oxford.

Hope is on the horizon, however, with articles published in Cell recently, illustrating how soil microbes could play a positive role in infection control. Phages have equally become more interesting to the scientific community and may provide innovative treatments beyond the antibiotic era.

“I think strongly a modified virus will deliver death to antibiotic resistant bacteria, and these are genetically modified viruses and phages, engineered using CRISPR. Basically, to take a phage and genetically modify them using this editing technique, is totally amazing concluded Professor Oxford. That is a huge step forward.”