Since their discovery in the early twentieth century, researchers have exploited bacteriophages (viruses that infect only bacteria). First, bacteriophages have been used to fight against human bacterial infections, they they were used as models for studying basic cellular mechanisms (replication, transcription, regulation …) and more recently they have become valuable tools in biotechnology. The extensive study of bacteriophages has led to the birth and development of molecular biology, which has provided many and is still providing tools, such as the genome editing Cas9 protein isolated from CRSIPRs-Cas systems.
Surprisingly, bacteriophages have been poorly studied in the environment where they are ubiquitous (at sea, on land and even in the air). They are also found in many human sites (gut, mouth, skin …). Their presence is directly linked to the presence of bacteria, but their role is still obscure. We can distinguish broadly two types of bacteriophages named temperate and virulent. Our main objective focuses on studying the interactions between virulent bacteriophages and bacteria in animals.
First, we seek to understand how these interactions evolve within a complex microbial ecosystem, the digestive tract of mammals. Many recent studies have highlighted the involvment of the intestinal microbiota on several human diseases and disorders pointing toward the role of specific bacteria. But despite their abundance in the intestines the role of bacteriophages within the microbiota remains elusive.
Second, we study the parameters required to develop the therapeutic use of bacteriophage (phage therapy). This medical treatment, originally developed in France a century ago, is now back on the forefront of the solutions to fight against infections caused by antibiotics resistant bacteria. Our studies focus specifically on the treatment of pulmonary infections.
The IBBA team (October 2019)
To watch a video introducing phage therapy, click here
L. Debarbieux is a co-founder of the association P.H.A.G.E. (www.p-h-a-g-e.org).