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Biographical sketch
Camille Guérin (1872-1961)
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French veterinarian, bacteriologist and immunologist born on Dec. 22, 1872 in Poitiers, France. His father directed a public works company and died of tuberculosis in 1882 ; her mother remarried veterinarian A. Venien, from Châtellerault, several years later.
High school studies at René Descartes college in Châtellerault.
1892-1896 Enrollment in veterinary medical training at the Veterinary School (Ecole Nationale Vétérinaire) in Alfort, France ; while a student, worked in the contagious diseases service and attended pathologist Ed. Nocard 's lectures.
1896 Veterinary medical doctorate.
1897 Joined the Pasteur Institute in Lille, as a technician in charge of preparing Calmette 's serum (antivenom against snake bites) and the vaccine against smallpox ; improved considerably the production methods of the later, by using rabbits as intermediate hosts.
1900 Promoted to Head of Laboratory ("chef de laboratoire") at the Pasteur Institute in Lille. Married Marie Lavergne, with whom he had two children.
1905 Developed a method to quantify the remaining virulence of the Jenner's vaccine against smallpox, for which he was rewarded with the vaccine gold medal from the French Academy of Medicine.
1905-1915 Together with A. Calmette, published a series of results concerning the mechanisms of tuberculosis infection. By cultivating the tubercle bacillus in a bovine glycerin bile-containing medium and on a potato substrate, the two researchers discovered that the virulence of these bacilli was attenuated progressively ; C. Guérin and A. Calmette strove to produce ever less virulent strains of the bacillus, by transferring them to successive subcultures every three weeks, over a period of 13 years. In 1915, Lille was occupied by the German army and the research had to cease.
1915-1918 During the First World War, he and his colleagues from the Pasteur Institute in Lille (A. Calmette, Constant, L. Marnier, E. Rolants, M. Breton) did everything they could to protect the civilian population in Lille, though the scientific equipments had been stolen or destroyed.
1918 His wife died of tuberculous meningitis.
1918-1924 Returned to research on a vaccine against tuberculosis. Finally, in 1921, after 230 passages of the tubercle bacillus in bile-containing medium, Calmette and Guérin succeeded in obtaining an attenuated and immunologically active strain (BCG, short for Bacillus Calmette-Guérin), which revealed to be an effective vaccine in cattle and other animals. B. Weill-Hallé successfully carried out the first vaccination in human.
1919-1928 Promoted to Head of Service ("chef de service") at the Pasteur Institute in Lille.
1924 The French government entitled the Pasteur Institute to extend the BCG vaccinations to newborns. Every qualified laboratory, in France or abroad, couldget the vaccine strain for free, by request.
1927 The vaccine meeting of the health section in the League of Nations, held inBerlin, recognized the C. Guérin's method as the standard one for controlling Jenner's vaccines.
1928 Moved from Lille to Paris to become the director of the Tuberculosis Service at the Institut Pasteur ; among other tasks, he devoted himse lf to the preparation of the BCG vaccine, replacing L. Nègre and A. Boquet.
1930 The International Congress against Tuberculosis, held in Oslo, approved the vaccination programme using the BCG vaccine, despite the Lübeck disaster.
1935 Named member of the BCG committee at the Institut Pasteur in Paris (the president of which was Antoine B.-J. Marfan), along with : A. Boquet, R. Debré, L. Martin, L. Nègre, G. Ramon, B. Weill-Hallé.
1935 Elected member of the French Academy of Medicine ; became its president in 1951 ; obtained the Boggio prize from this academy in 1907.
1939 Became vice-president of the National Defense Committee against Tuberculosis (CNDT, "Comité National de Défense contre la Tuberculose"), the president of which was A. Honnorat.
1939-1945 During the Second World War, by invitation of J. Tréfouël, the Institut Pasteur provided accomodation for him, while his flat in Paris was requisitioned by the German army.
1945 Became a member of the National Council for Social Hygiene (ministry of public health).
1948 Chairman of the First International Congress on BCG, Paris.
1955 Was awarded the scientific research Grand Prize in the French Academy of Sciences.
1961 Died at the Pasteur hospital (Institut Pasteur), in Paris, on June 9.

Collaborators : M. Breton, Boissière, A. Boquet, J. Bretey, A. Calmette, A. Deléarde, Léger, L. Massol, L. Nègre, Richart, A. Saenz, R. Turpin, B. Weill-Hallé, Wilbert.

Biographical reference tools :
- Guérin (Camille), Notice sur les titres et travaux de C. Guérin, Anc. Imp. de la Cour d'Appel, 21 p., 1935.
- Van Deinse (Frédéric), "Jean-Marie-Camille Guérin (1872-1961)", La Presse Médicale, n° 41, pp. 1769-1770, 1961.


 

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