How the fates of viral infections are decided

Why the same virus can cause very different outcomes in different individuals has been puzzling scientists for decades. In a recent study, published in PNAS, researchers in the Chemical Engineering Department provide an answer. Over the years, an enormous number of factors, associated with our immune system and with viruses, have been identified that contribute to the outcomes of infection. The interplay of these factors could be so involved that it made understanding the outcomes difficult. In the present study, Subhasish Baral, a PhD student, working in the Therapeutic Engineering Laboratory, guided by Prof. Narendra Dixit, and in collaboration with a colleague from Emory University, Prof. Rustom Antia, showed using mathematical modelling that the outcomes can be understood by the interactions of a single factor of our immune system, the so called killer T cells, and their interactions with the cells infected by viruses. All the other factors identified simply modulate these essential interactions. A new understanding of viral infections thus emerges. The implications can be significant. The mathematical model predicts that modulating the essential underlying interactions using drugs or vaccines, which is currently possible, could alter the outcomes of infection, potentially curing chronic infections like hepatitis C.

The paper can be found here:

Link to the group website: