Influenza, Immunity and Metabolism

Head of Team

François Trottein


Despite the availability of various vaccines and antimicrobial drugs, viral and bacterial respiratory infections are responsible for high levels of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Ageing and co-morbidities (including chronic metabolic diseases) worsen the outcomes of respiratory infections. Our research group is focusing on two major respiratory pathogens: the influenza A virus and Pneumococcus. In 2020, we initiated a novel program on SARS-CoV-2, the aetiologic agent of COVID-19. Our general objectives are to

 (I) Define age- and comorbidity-associated factors that predispose to respiratory infections,

(II) Develop new strategies for reinforcing the host’s defence against respiratory pathogens.

Our group has a strong focus on the gut microbiota, which is known to be critical in human health and illness, and on adipose tissue, recently described to play a part during infection. We expect that a better understanding of the gut/lung/adipose tissue axis will be instrumental in conceiving novel treatment options for patients.

François Trottein received his PhD degree in 1992 from the University of Lille. He did a post-doc at the Walter and ELIZA Hall Institute, Royal Melbourne Hospital. In 1995, he obtained a tenure position at CNRS and he started to develop his own group in France, at the Institut Pasteur de Lille. Since 1995, François Trottein has been working on host/pathogen interactions (parasites, bacteria, viruses); the objectives being to better understand escape mechanisms to immune responses and to exploit the innate immune system for designing novel therapeutic approaches. He has made major contribution in the field of innate immunity and lipids, either eicosanoids and antigenic lipids. For the later, he described the role (either beneficial or deleterious) of Natural Killer T cells, a population of lipid-reactive T cells, during infection. Since 2010, his group is developing research projects on respiratory infections and more precisely on influenza A virus (flu), SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) and Streptococcus pneumoniae, the leading cause of bacterial pneumonia in humans. The research group has an interest in gut microbiota. The group has recently patented several therapeutic applications in influenza and pneumococcal infections, including compounds produced by the gut microbiota such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These metabolites attenuate secondary disease outcomes during influenza - including bacterial superinfection. Pharmacological approaches, prebiotics, and next-generation probiotics are being developed. These notably include bacterial strains selected for their strong anti-inflammatory potential and their ability to produce SCFAs in symbiosis with specific fibres. The team has also an interest in ageing and comorbidity (such as obesity) in immune defense mechanisms and pathology associated with respiratory infections.