Patrice Debré

Microbiotic Man Humans and microbes: thousands of years of a shared history — for better or for worse. Publication date : October 21, 2015

Patrice Debré is a professor of immunology at Pierre-et-Marie-Curie University-Paris-V. He was formerly a head of department and the director of a research institute at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris. As French ambassador, he headed the fight against Aids and other transmissible diseases. He is the author of an acclaimed biography of Louis Pasteur (Flammarion) and of Vie et mort des épidémies (Editions Odile Jacob, 2013).
Man does not exist without microbes: human beings and bacteria have shared their lives from the scourge of the plague to Ebola, often in terror, but sometimes harmoniously. The common history of humans and microbes is one of the most fascinating enigmas in the history of living organisms. Unravelling the mystery means revealing what humans owe to the countless micro-organisms that have lived with and for them over millions of years of evolution. It also means exploring the human immune system in its entirety.
Microbes play a leading, albeit ambiguous, role in this book: one that can be threatening, harmful or even destructive. Because the human body contains more bacteria than somatic cells, humans are actually microbial creatures existing in a genetic symbiosis between living cells and microbes. A better understanding of the human-microbe partnership is the best way we have of dealing with future health threats.
Without succumbing to catastrophism, the author defends the hypothesis that the most virulent germs gradually decrease in strength and become chronic, thus signing a sort of treaty of peaceful coexistence between host and virus. After initially threatening the host’s life, the partnership can evolve into a beneficial one providing the host with a new genetic heritage.
• A book that will interest readers who wish to learn more about such issues as epidemics, the current vaccination controversy, the recent flare-up of the Ebola virus and hopes of eradicating Ebola.
• Clear, accessible language and a vivid writing style.
• An explanation not only of how epidemics originate and function, but also of the workings of the human immune system.