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Review
. 2017 Dec;38(12):888-903.
doi: 10.1016/j.it.2017.08.001. Epub 2017 Sep 4.

Understanding Immunity Through the Lens of Disease Ecology

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Free PMC article
Review

Understanding Immunity Through the Lens of Disease Ecology

Stephen M Hedrick. Trends Immunol. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

As we describe the immune system in ever more exquisite detail, we might find that no matter how successful, this approach will not be sufficient to understand the spread of infectious agents, their susceptibility to vaccine therapy, and human disease resistance. Compared with the strict reductionism practiced as a means of characterizing most biological processes, I propose that the progression and outcome of disease-causing host-parasite interactions will be more clearly understood through a focus on disease ecology.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
An idealized landscape of Trade-off theory. Depending on population density, size, and structure, as well as the mode of parasite transmission, the success of a parasite within a host population also depends on the virulence. As in-host reproduction and virulence increase, so does transmission, but at some point, this is outweighed by a decrease in the time of infection, which in turn, can decrease the basic reproductive ratio, R0. The red arrows exemplify how R0 might vary with transmission and virulence for a particular infectious agent.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Phase space showing resistance vs. tolerance for hosts and their pathogens Depending on the resistance or tolerance exhibited by the host, parasites are under more or less pressure to evolve virulence, i. e., mechanisms to overcome immunity. Strong resistance is associated with host immunopathology and increased selective pressure for virulent parasites. Tolerance results in wide-spread, but inapparent infection within the population. The absence of effective resistance and tolerance, as might be found in a zoonotic infection, would be associated with the potential for high host mortality.

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