Modeling Host Immune Responses in Infectious Diseases

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Virginia Tech

Infectious diseases caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites have affected humans historically. Infectious diseases remain a major cause of premature death and a public health concern globally with increased mortality and significant economic burden. Unvaccinated individuals, people with suppressed and compromised immune systems are at higher risk of suffering from infectious diseases. In spite of significant advancements in infectious diseases research, the control or treatment process faces challenges. The mucosal immune system plays a crucial role in safeguarding the body from harmful pathogens, while being constantly exposed to the environment. To develop treatment options for infectious diseases, it is vital to understand the immune responses that occur during infection. The two infectious diseases presented here are: i) Helicobacter pylori infection and ii) human immunodeficiency (HIV) and human papillomavirus (HPV) co-infection. H pylori, is a bacterium that colonizes the stomach and causes gastric cancer in 1-2% but is beneficial for protection against allergies and gastroesophageal diseases. An estimated 85% of H pylori colonized individuals show no detrimental effects. HIV is a virus that causes AIDS, one of the deadliest and most persistent epidemics. HIV-infected patients are at an increased risk of co-infection with HPV, and report an increased incidence of oral cancer. The goal of this thesis is to elucidate the host immune responses in infectious diseases via the use of computational and mathematical models. First, the thesis reviews the need for computational and mathematical models to study the immune responses in the course of infectious diseases. Second, it presents a novel sensitivity analysis method that identifies important parameters in a hybrid (agent-based/equation-based) model of H. pylori infection. Third, it introduces a novel model representing the HIV/HPV coinfection and compares the simulation results with a clinical study. Fourth, it discusses the need of advanced modeling technologies to achieve a personalized systems wide approach and the challenges that can be encountered in the process. Taken together, the work in this dissertation presents modeling approaches that could lead to the identification of host immune factors in infectious diseases in a predictive and more resource-efficient manner.

immune-system, infectious diseases, computational models, agent-based models, ordinary differential equations, sensitivity analysis, calibration, Helicobacter pylori