Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 19 March 2013, Vol.110(12), pp.4437-4437
As a young resident doctor at France’s Hôpitaux de Paris in the 1970s, Philippe Sansonetti saw a lot of patients with infectious diseases, such as typhoid, whooping cough, and leprosy. Sansonetti and his colleagues treated those patients with antibiotics. By that point, however, the first signs of antibiotic resistance were beginning to emerge. Sansonetti realized that treating infectious diseases might require alternative therapies, the development of which requires knowledge of how infectious microbes make people sick. Therefore, after completing his residency and training in molecular genetics at the Institut Pasteur, Sansonetti accepted a postdoctoral fellowship with Samuel B. Formal at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, then located in Washington, DC, to isolate the genes that let microbes invade host cells. Sansonetti’s model pathogen was Shigella, which causes febrile bloody diarrhea and can be lethal in infants. The disease Shigellosis primarily afflicts individuals in developing countries who lack access to basic hygiene. Over the years, Sansonetti, now the Chair of Microbiology and Infectious Disease at the Collège de France and Professor at Institut Pasteur, has used Shigella to ask questions about microbial mechanics: What genes allow a microbe to penetrate a cell? How does it move once inside the host? How does it kill the cell? Elected as a foreign member to the National Academy of Sciences in 2012, Sansonetti is seen as a founding member of the field of cellular microbiology. For his work, Sansonetti has received numerous awards, including the Prix Jacques Monod for excellence in molecular biology in 1983, the Louis-Jeantet Prize of Medicine in 1994, and the Robert Koch Prize in 1997. He has been a Howard Hughes Medical Institute foreign scholar since 2000. In his Inaugural Article, Sansonetti provides an explanation for why individuals must go through several painful bouts of Shigellosis before developing immunity to the disease (1). His findings could help efforts to develop a Shigellosis vaccine.
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