HEADElisabeth Carniel /
  MEMBERSCARNIEL Elisabeth, CHAUVAUX Sylvie, CHOUIKHA Iman, DANNE Camille, DELARUE Nadine, DEMEURE Christian, DERBISE Anne, FILALI Sofia, GOULARD Céline, GUINET Françoise , HUON Christèle, MARTIN Liliane, NAHM Toan, ROUGEAUX Clémence, SAVIN Cyril

  Annual Report

The genus Yersinia belongs to the Enterobacteriaceae family and is composed of 14 species, three of which are pathogenic for humans: Y. enterocolitica, Y. pseudotuberculosis and Y. pestis.

Enteropathogenic species

Y. enterocolitica and Y. pseudotuberculosis are widespread among various animal species and in the environment. They are transmitted to humans by the oral route and cause intestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea and fever. They are most often responsible for sporadic cases in France. These species are found all over the world, with a higher incidence in temperate and cold countries. The importance of Y. pseudotuberculosis in human infections is much lower than that of Y. enterocolitica in most countries except Russia, Finland and Japan.

The plague bacillus

Y. pestis is the causative agent of plague. This zoonotic disease is transmitted from animal to humans by flea bites. Bubonic plague (the most common clinical form of plague), is characterized by the development of a painful lymph node (bubo) in the area draining the bite site. From the bubo, Y. pestis disseminates by hematogenous route to deeper tissues (liver, spleen, lungs, central nervous system), leading to the death of 50-70% of the patients in less than a week in the absence of treatment. Pneumonic plague results from inter-human contamination through aerosol transmission and is characterized by an acute and highly severe pneumopathy. Without early and effective antibiotherapy, this form of plague is systematically lethal in usually less than three days. Y. pestis is one of nature's most pathogenic bacteria for humans.

Despite considerable progress in plague prevention and cure, this infection has not been eradicated and natural plague foci are found in numerous countries in Africa, in Asia and in the Americas (including the USA). Because of the steady increase in reported cases during the past 15 years and the reappearance of the disease in areas otherwise declared plague-free for several decades, the plague has been included in the list of re-emerging diseases.

The current activities of the YersiniaResearch Unit are primarily devoted to the analysis of:

- The mechanisms of genetic transfer in Yersinia.

- Comparative genomics and transcriptomics between Y. pestisand Y. pseudotuberculosis.

- The molecular bases for the exceptional pathogenicity of Y. pestisafter its recent emergence from Y. pseudotuberculosis.

- The physiopathology of Yersinia infection.

- The host's mechanisms of innate and acquired immunity.

- The development of a vaccine against plague and pseudotuberculosis.

- The genetic bases of susceptibility to plague.

- The resistance of pathogenic Yersiniato antibiotics.

- The evolution of pathogenic Yersinia.

- The development of typing tools for molecular epidemiology.

- Public health (French Reference Laboratory, National Surveillance Network, and WHO Collaborating Center for Yersinia).

Keywords: Yersinia, plague, gastrointestinal infection, pseudotuberculosis, microbiology, genomics, physiopathology, pathogenicity, host response, immunology, gene transfer, phage, evolution, antibiotic resistance, vaccine, diagnosis. molecular epidemiology


- M. Eppinger, M.J. Rosovitz, W.W. Fricke, D.A. Rasko, G. Kokorina, C. Fayolle, L.E. Lindler, E. Carniel, J. Ravel. 2007. Genome Sequence of Y. pseudotuberculosis IP31758, the causative agent of Far East Scarlet Like Fever: Linking Genomic Plasticity to Pathogenicity. PLoS Genetics. 3:e142.

- A. Derbise, V. Chenal-Francisque, F. Pouillot, C. Fayolle, M-C. Prévost, C. Médigue, B. J. Hinnebusch and E. Carniel. 2007. An horizontally acquired filamentous phage contributes to the pathogenicity of the plague bacillus. Mol. Microbiol. 63:1145-1157.

- T. Blisnick, P. Ave, M. Huerre, E. Carniel and C.E. Demeure. 2008. Oral vaccination against bubonic plague using a live avirulent Yersinia pseudotuberculosis. Infect. Immun. 76:3808–3816.

- N. C. Stenseth, B. B. Atshabar, M. Begon, S. R. Belmain, E. Bertherat, E. Carniel, K. L. Gage, H. Leirs and L. Rahalison. 2008. Plague: past, present and future. PLoS Medicine. 5:e3.

- F. Guinet, P. Avé, L. Jones, M. Huerre and E. Carniel. 2008. Defective innate cell response and lymph node infiltration specify Yersinia pestis infection. PLoS One. 3:2e1688.

Activity Reports 2009 - Institut Pasteur
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