Quebec City, QC – A Université Laval microbiologist has been tasked with overseeing the Canadian component of an international study aimed at understanding the role of bacteriophages—viruses that attack only bacteria—in the development of chronic inflammatory diseases.
The three-year project named EarlyVir will receive $1.4 million in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the French National Research Agency, and Innovation Fund Denmark. The researcher, Sylvain Moineau, is Canada’s Research Chair in Bacteriophages and curator of the world’s largest public collection of bacteriophages. His work on the interactions between phages and bacteria was fundamental to the discovery and understanding of the CRISPR-Cas system, a bacterial immune mechanism whose gene-editing function has completely revolutionized life sciences over the last few years.
Researchers at France’s Micalis Institute and the COPSAC clinical research unit at the University of Copenhagen will be project partners.
Increasingly compelling data indicates that the composition of intestinal microbiota during childhood plays a key role in the development of chronic inflammatory diseases such as asthma, allergies, and Crohn’s disease. The study in which Professor Moineau will take part will look at how bacteriophages (or simply “phages”) affect the composition of intestinal microbiota.
The researchers will first inventory the phages present in the digestive systems of 700 Danish children. Using this inventory, the researchers will then attempt to correlate the presence or frequency of certain phages with the development of various chronic inflammatory diseases. They will also study how intestinal phages and bacteria are affected by different diets and food supplements.
“The incidence of chronic inflammatory disease has been increasing in the Western world in recent decades,” explains Professor Moineau. “Our work as part of this international research project will help us better understand the complex interactions that give rise to these diseases and could lead to major benefits for public health.”
Last December, Sylvain Moineau was named one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds for the second year running by strategic information company Thomson Reuters.
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