Variation in susceptibility to a virus is the key to understanding infection biology

Jun 30, 2011

A new study shows that differences in the vulnerability of animals to a virus are crucial to understanding patterns of infection, and that variation in susceptibility to two marginally different viruses increases the number of infections when the two virus variants are present in the same animal. This study, by researchers from the Netherlands and Spain, will be published on June 30th in the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology.

Models of often fail to predict how many animals will become infected and which virus variants will be present in the infected animals, even under controlled laboratory conditions. To discover whether these models are fundamentally wrong or simply not detailed enough, the researchers created four mathematical models of virus infection. They subsequently tested the predictive ability of the models against data from in which they exposed , Lepidopteran larvae, to insect viruses.

"We were surprised to find that a relatively simple model could describe the data", says Mark Zwart, one of the study´s authors and currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular de Plantas, Spain. "The only ingredient we needed to add to an infection model was differences in caterpillar vulnerability to the virus. Our work confirms that virus particles independently infect animals, even in situations where we thought they might be working together."

The study improves our understanding of how virus particles interact with each other and the host animal during infection, and concludes that "Most deviations from [model] predictions may be caused by variation in host susceptibility". The extent to which this conclusion applies to other viruses and pathogens is not yet clear and a follow-up study on a wide range of different pathogens is currently being carried out.

Explore further: Fighting bacteria—with viruses

More information: van der Werf W, Hemerik L, Vlak JM, Zwart MP (2011) Heterogeneous Host Susceptibility Enhances Prevalence of Mixed-Genotype Micro-Parasite Infections. PLoS Comput Biol 7(6): e1002097. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002097

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hepatitis C virus blocks 'superinfection'

Apr 05, 2007

There’s infection and then there’s superinfection – when a cell already infected by a virus gets a second viral infection. But some viruses don’t like to share their cells. New research from Rockefeller University ...

The way to a virus' 'heart' is through its enzymes

Jul 09, 2008

The arrival of bluetongue virus (BTV) in the UK last year posed a major threat to the economy and the increasing temperatures of our changing climate mean it is here to stay. If we are to fight this disease, which has had ...

Scientists Develop Vaccine Against Deadly Viruses

Oct 04, 2006

Scientists from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), in collaboration with counterparts from the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL), have developed a vaccine to fight two deadly animal viruses ...

Recommended for you

Fighting bacteria—with viruses

Jul 24, 2014

Research published today in PLOS Pathogens reveals how viruses called bacteriophages destroy the bacterium Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which is becoming a serious problem in hospitals and healthcare institutes, due to its re ...

Atomic structure of key muscle component revealed

Jul 24, 2014

Actin is the most abundant protein in the body, and when you look more closely at its fundamental role in life, it's easy to see why. It is the basis of most movement in the body, and all cells and components ...

Brand new technology detects probiotic organisms in food

Jul 23, 2014

In the food industr, ity is very important to ensure the quality and safety of products consumed by the population to improve their properties and reduce foodborne illness. Therefore, a team of Mexican researchers ...

Protein evolution follows a modular principle

Jul 23, 2014

Proteins impart shape and stability to cells, drive metabolic processes and transmit signals. To perform these manifold tasks, they fold into complex three-dimensional shapes. Scientists at the Max Planck ...

User comments : 0