“I would like us to have control of microorganisms”

Galarraga Aiestaran, Ana

Elhuyar Zientzia

Microbiologist Miren Basaras Ibarzabal (Bilbao, 1968) is a professor at the University of the Basque Country at the Faculty of Medicine and Nursing, and is always ready to respond to the media and explain to the public through courses, conferences, etc. The reader can find many examples in the magazine Elhuyar itself. But this time we have not asked him about microorganisms but about himself. And it has provided us with truly interesting answers, with their memory and hope… and also with microorganisms.
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What has surprised, altered or fascinated you the most since you started working?

First of all, I must quote Professor Ramón Cisterna Cancer. I started working with him and thanks to him I came to love Microbiology and I keep working on it. In addition, although it is not Euskaldun, it has always promoted the branch in Basque.

On the other hand, at that time the PCR technique had just been found. In fact, its inventor, Kary Mullel, received the Nobel Prize in 1993. And the truth is that this technique was a great revolution, since since then we can identify many pathogenic microorganisms much faster and more precisely. Therefore, the PCR has allowed a lot of progress in the diagnosis and has allowed us to follow up treatment: efficacy, resistance generation, etc.

In recent times genome sequencing has brought awareness of the importance of the microbiome. In short, in our body we have numerous bacteria and viruses, and now we have begun to identify them, to know their function and to analyze their relationship with some alterations.

What would you like to witness the revolution or the discovery in your career?

To see! I want us to have control of microorganisms. And it is that with the supposedly controlled ones we also see that they mutate, that they develop resistances, that we do not get right with the treatments… I would like that to turn that. I know that microorganisms will not disappear, they will always exist. And there will always be infections and diseases. But I want us to have control of them, that before an infection is able to devise effective drugs or vaccines to control the infection.

With the mention of vaccines I would like something else, and somehow get to overcome the anti-vaccine movements. It is a very serious and difficult problem to solve, because it requires changing the beliefs of these people. The value of vaccines is so obvious, and yet they deny it… I would like to turn it around.

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