Welcome to the BSP Autumn Symposium 2017!

The 2017 BSP Autumn Symposium will be held on Thursday 28th September at the Linnean Society, Burlington House, London.  Here, the Symposium organisers, Russell Stothard & Bonnie Webster, welcome all delegates and express their aspirations for the meeting:

We warmly welcome all Symposium delegates with the simple message that ‘all living species are involved in parasitism, either as parasites or as hosts’. This is a universal truth which sets the foundation for discussions at the 2017 British Society for Parasitology Autumn Symposium, entitled “The multidisciplinarity of parasitology: host-parasite evolution and control in an ever changing world”. Without doubt, parasitism is a successful evolutionary strategy but is also part of a broader picture of symbiosis and is a convenient classification of the dynamics of how organisms, big or small, interact. As a metaphor it is tremendously powerful, and regularly used in today’s language to describe significant socio-political events and processes, as societies and nations sometimes negatively exploit others. The agenda of parasitology is exciting, challenging and globally relevant.

Nonetheless, today’s Symposium on parasitism also underpins mutualism, those interactions seen to benefit all players. Our meeting is supported by The Linnean Society of London, The Royal Society for Tropical Medicine, London Centre for Neglected Tropical Diseases and International Federation for Tropical Medicine (ITFM). Notably, each has provided much more than goodwill to make this meeting a success and we also thank our guest speakers and all attendees. With the award of IFTM Medal, our meeting celebrates the career of Dr David Rollinson, a former President of the BSP, who has been active in parasitological research for over 40 years and recently received the Linnean Society Gold Medal in recognition for his services to science. Thus our Symposium also seeks to encourage others to devote their careers and efforts to parasitological research.

For convenience, we have split our Symposium into three themes but these divisions blur, as well they should, for we encourage cross-talk as much as possible between disciplines. The ‘ever changing world’ hopes to place parasitological research within the new terminology of the Anthropocene and how mankind is altering global environments which may or may not favour parasitic diseases of medical, veterinary or wildlife importance. The ‘multidisciplinarity of parasitology’ encourages synergies between molecular, ecological and social science components that link parasites and hosts into a more holistic appraisal of parasitism.  The meeting closes upon ‘host-parasite evolution and control’ to recognise that parasites are not simple self-replicating automata and are very able to respond rapidly to interventions waged against them. It is very fitting to discuss this aspect of parasitism here in the Linnean Society where Darwin and Wallace once read their papers, nearly 160 years ago, on evolution by natural selection.

To close, we hope you are inspired by this meeting, form new friendships, enjoy the conviviality of the BSP - especially at tonight’s dinner - and look forward to the production of a special issue of Parasitology resultant from the Symposium’s discussions.

Russell Stothard & Bonnie Webster