Professor Philippe Sansonetti, professor at the Pasteur Institute in France, and specialist in the field of microbiology, was in Delhi last month to launch the first-ever cycle of lectures in India by professors of the prestigious Collège de France. The National Institute of Immunology, Delhi, National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases, Kolkata and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, are some of the institutes where he delivered lectures. Sansonetti, who also visited research institutes like IGIB, Delhi and NCBS, Bangalore, talks about breakthroughs in microbiology and research partnerships with India. Here are some excerpts from the interview.
What are the emerging trends/recent breakthroughs in the field of microbiology? What are the developments that are likely in the next five years?
The most impressive breakthrough is certainly the (re)discovery of the human microbiota, thanks to new generation sequencing and bioinformatics capacities that have allowed a true metagenomics approach aimed at exhaustive characterisation of all the genomes (microbiome) composing this microbiota. Developments that illuminate the function of microbiota in health and disease are taking place. At stake is the understanding of some diseases of increasing frequency such as obesity/diabetes, colon cancer, atopy/eczema/asthma, etc. The years to come will increasingly bring about the experimental dimension of this metagenomics that may even affect brain development, particularly in the post natal period
Can you elaborate on the existing and upcoming research partnerships in microbiology between educational institutes in India and France?
As India and France share concerns about infectious diseases, they have good reasons to team up on key issues in basic and applied microbiology. In spite of these reasons, beyond the significant number of Indian students and post doctorates trained in France, it seems to me that in this field there is not enough reciprocal movement from French scientists to India in spite of the wealth of opportunities emerging in this country.
More needs to be done to improve the visibility of Indian sites of excellence in our discipline and of course, support would be necessary to boost the level of exchanges.
I hope my trip to premier Indian institutions in microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases in India will help me get a better picture of where efforts should be dedicated/focused to foster more collaborations, especially in the design of novel tools and methods to control the emergence and spread of infectious diseases in general and antibiotic resistance in particular.