Interview of Jean-François Delfraissy, Director of the thematic multi-organization institute Microbiology and infectious diseases
Infectious and parasite diseases are the second cause of death worldwide (around 26%, or 17 million deaths a year), but they strike countries unequally depending on where the latter are located and their level of development.
For humans, the animal world is a major source of infectious diseases: out of more than 1,400 known pathogens, some 60% originate from animals. Animals carry almost three-quarters of the pathogens responsible for so-called emerging or re-emerging diseases in humans. The development of these zoonoses illustrates the need to improve our understanding of mechanisms for crossing the inter-species barrier.
Other infections may also be fatal (shigellosis, cholera, measles, viral respiratory diseases, malaria and AIDS), and such chronic diseases as some types of cancer may also be caused by infectious agents, particularly viral ones.
Lastly, nosocomial diseases (infections linked to treatments) affect almost 5% of hospitalized patients, and a third of these could be avoided.
The technological progress made in the field of genomics has completely changed our understanding of the microbial world and host-pathogen interactions. French research on infectious and parasitic diseases must now tackle a range of challenges.
Deciphering the human microbiome
This concerns all the genes of bacterial species living in symbiosis with humans. This metagenome refers to a practically unknown, considerably complex universe;
Emergence, re-emergence and management of health risks
Its major challenge is to analyze emerging microbes and identify each individual potential pathogen more accurately;
Chronic viral infections (HIV and hepatites)
These still need all sorts of developments to be achieved, e.g. evaluation of treatments, improvement of patients’ quality of life, development of new prevention strategies and new vaccines.
Multiresistance to anti-infectives
Its research challenges involve both an understanding of the biological mechanisms of resistance and diagnostic, therapeutic and prophylactic innovation;
These define such priorities as monitoring morbidity and mortality, the performance of surveillance systems or evaluation of the different control and prevention strategies;
Vaccination and public policies
These are coming up against increasing difficulties and require the epidemiological benefit, possible side effects and the cost-effectiveness ratio to be assessed;
Cooperation with southern countries
This concerns the development of new products as well as the production and distribution of effective drugs that are no longer being manufactured or whose themes have been cast aside by the pharmaceutical industry for not being profitable enough.
Director : Jean-François Delfraissy
Deputy Directors : Evelyne Jouvin-Marche, Bernadette Murgue