From animal to man: viruses in their element

Discover Dr. Maria Razzauti, 2015 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellow and doctorate researcher at the Centre de Biologie pour la Gestion des Populations, at the INRA.

Are animals man’s best friend? Not always. The majority of known diseases infectious to humans are caused by pathogenic agents carried by domestic or wild animals. Monitoring these pathogenic agents in animals is therefore one way to predict, prevent and control the emergence of human disease. “My work is concerned with developing innovative, low-cost methods of monitoring the circulation and evolution of viruses that affect humans and that are carried by wild animals”, describes Maria Razzauti, doctorate researcher at the Centre de Biologie pour la Gestion des Populations, at the INRA. The innovative experimental protocol uses a new generation sequencing approach that allows the sequencing of all the viruses present in an animal (carrier or vertebrate host). This protocol allows the analysis of several hundred animals at the same time. In the long-term, these methods will enable the implementation of health monitoring policies leading to the prediction of epidemics such as those that have been seen over the last few years in different parts of the world.

My main goal is to study how these viruses evolve to cause outbreaks in human populations and livestock. Now, you only can detect one virus at a time and you have to have some idea of what virus you are trying to detect. This is a technique to detect many viruses, by screening many samples at a time without needing prior knowledge of the presence of this virus. So for example, you have a disease outbreak in a region of France and you don’t know the cause of the outbreak. But you know that there are a lot of rodents in that region and you could have a theory that rodents are transmitting this disease. So we’d take rodent samples and without having any idea which pathogen is causing this disease – we can detect the pathogen. And then we can study if this disease is related to the pathogen we detected or not. 


For Women in Science

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