Marc Eloit, vétérinaire devenu pêcheur de virus

Since 2008, the researcher of the Institut Pasteur has put high -speed sequencing at the service of the discovery of pathogens, in humans as in animals.

By Nathaniel Herzberg

Virus hunters do not always have a good reputation. To find the nugget – the most pathogenic, the most infectious, the one that will make the best scientific newspapers salivate -, they are said to be ready for anything, or almost. Playing elbows, pulling the blanket, and the carpet under the competitor’s feet, even taking some liberties with health security … Marc Eloit is not of this species. Of course, he likes Bourlinguer, according to collection sites and collaborations with the Pasteur Institutes of Asia or Africa with which, from the Parisian mother house, he has been collaborating for fifteen years. Certainly, he recognizes himself competitive. After his discovery, in 2021, of the bat virus closest to the Sars-Cov-2 never identified to date, he admits having pushed his whole team to “work a lot to publish as quickly as possible”. No way to be toast by American cowboys. But during the triumphant release of the article In nature, in February 2022 , he never failed to say that nothing was yet a relationship between his pathogen and the one who caused the pandemic, which was confirmed by the following. And above all to insist on “the first merit of Laotian teams”. Not really the custom of the virological west West.

a small perfume of revenge

“A question of justice,” he said simply. But also temperament. In reality, Marc Eloit does not feel quite a virus hunter. “Fisherman suits me better,” he smiles. No doubt you have to see a nod to his passion for fly fishing, which led him to buy a house in Lozère. A small perfume of revenge too. “When he arrived at the Institut Pasteur, in 2008, some believed that the use of high-speed sequencing for the discovery of pathogens was more of the pilot hammer than of precision science,” recalls Professor Marc Lecuit , who then welcomed him to his laboratory. The interested party has fun. “Those who made fun of our methods said that we were going to fishing. That no preliminary hypothesis was made. Nothing is more false. We do not exchange anywhere. You have to know the ground. And then, then, You have to know how to read the sequences that come out of the computer, detect those that may have an interest or not. As we learn to read a river. We do all this. “

We are the team of twelve people from the “Discovery of pathogen” laboratory. “It may seem a cliché, but it’s really a collective work. I am the conductor. Without the instrumentalists, no music,” insists this opera lover and the songs of Georges Brassens. The “I”, he reserves it to the past, for childhood in Morbihan, to the preparatory classes in Rennes.

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