Multi-scale mechanistic modelling of the host defence in invasive aspergillosis reveals leucocyte activation and iron acquisition as drivers of infection outcome

J R Soc Interface. 2022 Apr;19(189):20210806. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2021.0806. Epub 2022 Apr 13.


Aspergillus species are ubiquitous environmental moulds, with spores inhaled daily by most humans. Immunocompromised hosts can develop an invasive infection resulting in high mortality. There is, therefore, a pressing need for host-centric therapeutics for this infection. To address it, we created a multi-scale computational model of the infection, focused on its interaction with the innate immune system and iron, a critical nutrient for the pathogen. The model, parameterized using published data, was found to recapitulate a wide range of biological features and was experimentally validated in vivo. Conidial swelling was identified as critical in fungal strains with high growth, whereas the siderophore secretion rate seems to be an essential prerequisite for the establishment of the infection in low-growth strains. In immunocompetent hosts, high growth, high swelling probability and impaired leucocyte activation lead to a high conidial germination rate. Similarly, in neutropenic hosts, high fungal growth was achieved through synergy between high growth rate, high swelling probability, slow leucocyte activation and high siderophore secretion. In summary, the model reveals a small set of parameters related to fungal growth, iron acquisition and leucocyte activation as critical determinants of the fate of the infection.

Keywords: Aspergillus fumigatus; computational model; innate immune response; iron homeostasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aspergillosis* / microbiology
  • Aspergillus fumigatus*
  • Humans
  • Iron
  • Siderophores
  • Spores, Fungal


  • Siderophores
  • Iron