Tolerance of Infections
A host has two methods to defend against pathogens: It can clear the pathogens or reduce their impact on health in other ways. The first, resistance, is well studied. Study of the second, which ecologists call tolerance, is in its infancy. Tolerance measures the dose response curve of a host's health in reaction to a pathogen and can be studied in a simple quantitative manner. Such studies hold promise because they point to methods of treating infections that put evolutionary pressures on microbes different from antibiotics and vaccines. Studies of tolerance will provide an improved foundation to describe our interactions with all microbes: pathogenic, commensal, and mutualistic. One obvious mechanism affecting tolerance is the intensity of an immune response; an overly exuberant immune response can cause collateral damage through immune effectors and because of the energy allocated away from other physiological functions. There are potentially many other tolerance mechanisms, and here we systematically describe tolerance using a variety of animal systems.
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