Luc Montagnier has spent most of his scientific carreer in the study of viruses associated with chronic diseases. Among his achievements are the isolation, with his French team, of the viruses known as HIV 1 and HIV2, the first description of the apoptotic state of lymphocytes from patients with AIDS and seminal observations on the role of infectious cofactors in the disease. Besides his involvement in the design of new types of protective and therapeutic AIDS vaccines, his current studies are aimed at the diagnosis and treatment of microbial and viral factors associated with cancers, neuro-degenerative and auto-immune diseases. As a strong advocate of preventive medicine, he is especially concerned with prolonging the active life of aging people. Beyond his scientific interest in his deep involvement with helping developing countries acquire knowledge of and access to modern medicine and preventive medicine. As President of the World Foundation for Aids Research and Prevention, he has co-founded two centers for the prevention, treatment, research and diagnosis of AIDS patients in the Ivory Coast and Cameroon.
In 2008, he has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine.
Living with viruses
Pathogenic microorganisms in this day of age are not only submitted to high selective pressure by the immune defences of theirs hosts, but also have to survive under highly active antiviral or antibiotic treatments. Not surprisingly, they have evolved in finding many ways to escape these hostile conditions, such as mutation of resistance, hypervariability of surface antigens, protective biofilms, latency inside cells and tissues.
Often, as with plague or cholera, epidemics have spread as a result of transportation. Today, although global surveillance systems and hygiene precautions could efficiently decrease these risks, we cannot exclude, as we have seen recently, outbreaks of new infections, difficult to put under control.
Moreover, germs have found new ways to silently invade our organisms whose immune system is not always fully operational, due to environmental factors.
In addition, our genome is full of ancient retroviruses whose unregulated expression could be harmful and lead to cancer or neurodegenerative diseases.
New molecular tools makes it now possible to detect these viral agents at an early stage in order to treat or prevent their harmful effects.
They should be made available to all human populations, whatever their economical situation.