“It’s like discovering
a whole new continent!”
When I started working on microbiota, in 2003, it was by no
means a trendy topic. Those of us who spent our days examining
human body waste were something of a laughingstock...
From the get-go, what I found exciting was the fact we were
working on something entirely new. It’s like discovering a whole
new continent! Today, we’re still exploring that new continent,
regularly bearing witness to essential discoveries for human health.
Microbiota is the link between a lot of diseases: working on those links is
extremely interesting from a medical standpoint. Understanding how interactions
between microorganisms and human cells work, considering a global ecosystem,
is truly exciting.
Major advances in research?
Microbiota is also interesting in that it reconnects human health to the
environment in which we live. This concept of global health didn’t raise much
interest in the early 2000s. And yet, in under 20 years, we've gone from
describing an entire ecosystem to conducting clinical drug trials in humans.
That is just fantastic, especially given that we’re still in the early days!
To my mind, the biggest advances of the past few years in terms of microbiota
research have been to do with fecal transplantation and evidence of the role
microbiota plays in so many pathologies, as well as some treatments. That has
led to the notion of circular causality: disease alters the microbiota, which in turn
aggravates the disease. What we’ve observed is that anomalies affecting the
microbiota are directly linked to changes in our environment and diet. Looking at
those causalities from a circular perspective, beyond the usual linear approach, is
a fairly new vision in medicine.
Any new treatments on the horizon?
I’d say that the most promising solutions concern the use of new-generation
probiotics, in other words, microorganisms isolated from the human microbiota
and selected rationally for their biological effects.
Fecal transplantation is also really interesting, especially for situations where
we predict that a small number of administrations will be sufficient. On the
other hand, it will be very difficult to develop this approach on a large scale for
frequent chronic pathologies which is where newgeneration probiotics come in
Going forward and looking to future techniques the socalled omics sciences
such as metagenomics and metabolomics combined with artificial intelligence
are promising fields of investigation Even though they are not yet useful for
managing disease they could in the near future drive the creation of new tools
for diagnosing or predicting disease a useful resource for medicine This is a
vast area to be explored in the future