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Bordet was born at Soignies, Belgium. He graduated in the year 1892 as Doctor of Medicine at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (Brussels, Belgium) and began his work at the Pasteur Institute in Paris in 1894, in the laboratory of Elie Metchnikoff, who had just discovered phagocytosis of bacteria by white blood cells, expression of the cellular immunity. In 1898 Bordet described hemolysis evoked by exposure of blood serum to foreign blood cells.
In 1900, he left Paris to found the Pasteur Institute in Brussels, and made his discovery that the bacteriolytic effect of acquired specific antibody is significantly enhanced in vivo by the presence of innate serum components which he termed alexine (but which are now known as complement). This mechanism became the basis for complement-fixation testing methods that enabled the development of serological tests for syphilis (specifically, the development of the Wassermann test by August von Wassermann). The same technique is used today in serologic testing for countless other diseases.
With Octave Gengou he isolated Bordetella pertussis in pure culture in 1906 and posited it as the cause of whooping cough. He became Professor of Bacteriology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles in 1907.
In March 1916 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and in 1930 delivered their Croonian Lecture. In this lecture Bordet also concluded that bacteriophages "the invisible virus of Felix d'Herelle",a self-taught microbiologist, did not exist and that it was bacteria themselves which produce the lytic principle. He was to be proven incorrect later with Bacteriophage therapy then recognised as an alternative/complementary therapy in the fight against bacterial infections, starting with the treatment of patients in Paris by Felix d'Herelle. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to him in 1919 for his discoveries relating to immunity.
Bordet died in 1961 and was interred in the Ixelles Cemetery in Brussels.
- "Librart and Archive Catalogue". Royal society. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
- Viruses vs. Superbugs, Thomas Hausler
- a longer Biography page at Jules Bordet Institute
- The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1919
- Jules Bordet Institute
- Jules Bordet at Find a Grave