Superinfection and cell regeneration can lead to chronic viral coinfections.


Molecular diagnostic techniques have revealed that approximately 43% of the patients hospitalized with influenza-like illness are infected by more than one viral pathogen, sometimes leading to long-lasting infections. It is not clear how the heterologous viruses interact within the respiratory tract of the infected host to lengthen the duration of what are usually short, self-limiting infections. We develop a mathematical model which allows for single cells to be infected simultaneously with two different respiratory viruses (superinfection) to investigate the possibility of chronic coinfections. We find that a model with superinfection and cell regeneration has a stable chronic coinfection fixed point, while superinfection without cell regeneration produces only acute infections. This analysis suggests that both superinfection and cell regeneration are required to sustain chronic coinfection via this mechanism since coinfection is maintained by superinfected cells that allow slow-growing infections a chance to infect cells and continue replicating. This model provides a possible mechanism for chronic coinfection independent of any viral interactions via the immune response.

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