Article

Tracing Personalized Health Curves during Infections

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States of America.
PLoS Biology (Impact Factor: 11.77). 09/2011; 9(9):e1001158. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001158
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT It is difficult to describe host-microbe interactions in a manner that deals well with both pathogens and mutualists. Perhaps a way can be found using an ecological definition of tolerance, where tolerance is defined as the dose response curve of health versus parasite load. To plot tolerance, individual infections are summarized by reporting the maximum parasite load and the minimum health for a population of infected individuals and the slope of the resulting curve defines the tolerance of the population. We can borrow this method of plotting health versus microbe load in a population and make it apply to individuals; instead of plotting just one point that summarizes an infection in an individual, we can plot the values at many time points over the course of an infection for one individual. This produces curves that trace the course of an infection through phase space rather than over a more typical timeline. These curves highlight relationships like recovery and point out bifurcations that are difficult to visualize with standard plotting techniques. Only nine archetypical curves are needed to describe most pathogenic and mutualistic host-microbe interactions. The technique holds promise as both a qualitative and quantitative approach to dissect host-microbe interactions of all kinds.

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