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Dynamics of immune response and drug resistance in malaria infection.

Abstract

Malaria parasites that concurrently infect a host compete on the basis of their intrinsic growth rates and by stimulating cross-reactive immune responses that inhibit each others' growth. If the phenotypes also show different drug sensitivities ('sensitive' vs. 'resistant' strains), drug treatment can change their joint dynamics and the long-term outcome of the infection: most obviously, persistent drug pressure can permit the more resistant, but otherwise competitively-inferior, strains to dominate.

The model quantifies possible effects of single and multiple (periodic) treatment on the outcome of parasite competition. In the absence of further inoculation, the dosage and/or treatment frequency required for complete clearance can be estimated. With persistent superinfection, time-average parasite densities can be derived in terms of the basic immune-regulating parameters, the drug efficacy and treatment regimen.

Here a mathematical model is developed to analyse how these and more subtle effects of antimalarial drug use are modulated by immune response, repeated re-inoculation of parasites, drug pharmacokinetic parameters, dose and treatment frequency.

The functional relations in the model are applicable to a wide range of conditions and transmission environments, allowing predictions to be made on both the individual and the community levels, and, in particular, transitions from drug-sensitive to drug-resistant parasite dominance to be projected on both levels.

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