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J Theor Biol. 2011 May 7;276(1):106-16. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2011.01.052. Epub 2011 Feb 12.

Mathematical model of a three-stage innate immune response to a pneumococcal lung infection.

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Theoretical Biology and Biophysics, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545, USA.


Pneumococcal pneumonia is a leading cause of death and a major source of human morbidity. The initial immune response plays a central role in determining the course and outcome of pneumococcal disease. We combine bacterial titer measurements from mice infected with Streptococcus pneumoniae with mathematical modeling to investigate the coordination of immune responses and the effects of initial inoculum on outcome. To evaluate the contributions of individual components, we systematically build a mathematical model from three subsystems that describe the succession of defensive cells in the lung: resident alveolar macrophages, neutrophils and monocyte-derived macrophages. The alveolar macrophage response, which can be modeled by a single differential equation, can by itself rapidly clear small initial numbers of pneumococci. Extending the model to include the neutrophil response required additional equations for recruitment cytokines and host cell status and damage. With these dynamics, two outcomes can be predicted: bacterial clearance or sustained bacterial growth. Finally, a model including monocyte-derived macrophage recruitment by neutrophils suggests that sustained bacterial growth is possible even in their presence. Our model quantifies the contributions of cytotoxicity and immune-mediated damage in pneumococcal pathogenesis.

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