Bacteriophage therapy for multidrug-resistant bacteria, new insights into sepsis treatment, and bioengineering approaches to respiratory medicine are all in the spotlight at the upcoming American Thoracic Society (ATS) 2018 International Conference in San Diego.

Bacteriophage therapy will be discussed in the settings of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. "There will also be discussions of therapy for people who have incurable bacterial infections while vacationing abroad. And there will be results from research by infectious disease experts who have worked with the US navy using a phage library to target treatment," said Jess Mandel, MD, from the University of California, San Diego in La Jolla, who is conference chair.

Many advances in the treatment of sepsis will also be addressed. The reason sepsis patients are so often back in the intensive care unit after 90 days, and what can be done to better manage these patients, will be examined in one presentation. And socioeconomic factors related to specific treatments for sepsis will be explored in another.

Bioengineering and Lessons From Seals

Bioengineering approaches "will change how we think about progression when we think about disease and therapy" Mandel reported. Cellular and tissue-engineering approaches, such as the "lung-on-a-chip" model, and matrix-based recellularized tissues will be discussed during one session. There will also be presentations on lung organoids — lungs grown in a Petri dish — and the in vivo tissue engineering of human airways.

A keynote speech, delivered by Polly Parsons, MD, from the University of Vermont in Burlington, will examine hypoxemic and ischemic protection in deep-diving seals. "Seals can do things humans can't; we can learn from that," said ATS President Marc Moss, MD, from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora. "Maybe we will have the opportunity to think about new strategies for human lungs."

In other hot topics, researchers will present data on the effects of oral contraception on asthma risk in women, and on the effects of asthma treatments, including the combination of fluticasone furoate and vilanterol, on patient-reported outcomes.

Physician Wellness

In another of the keynote series, Darrell Kirch, MD, president and chief executive officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges in Washington, DC, will look at the need for transformation in the nation's healthcare system to prevent burnout in healthcare providers.

And a keynote on what physicians can do to reduce burnout and promote engagement will be delivered by Tait Shanafelt, MD, from the Stanford University Medical Center in California, who was named the first chief wellness officer at Stanford last year, in the first program of its kind.

Air Pollution

"A unifying theme for our different societies around world is air pollution causing increasing exacerbations of lung diseases, like asthma," Moss explained. "We need to work collectively on the impact this has on all of us."