University of Virginia
Clinical symptoms of microbial infection of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract are often exacerbated by inflammation induced pathology. Identifying novel avenues for treating and preventing such pathologies is necessary and complicated by the complexity of interacting immune pathways in the gut, where effector and inflammatory immune cells are regulated by anti-inflammatory or regulatory cells. Here we present new advances in the development of the ENteric Immunity SImulator (ENISI), a simulator of GI immune mechanisms in response to resident commensal bacteria as well as invading pathogens and the effect on the development of intestinal lesions. ENISI is a tool for identifying potential treatment strategies that reduce inflammation-induced damage and, at the same time, ensure pathogen removal by allowing one to test plausibility of in vitro observed behavior as explanations for observations in vivo, propose behaviors not yet tested in vitro that could explain these tissue-level observations, and conduct low-cost, preliminary experiments of proposed interventions/treatments. An example of such application is shown in which we simulate dysentery resulting from Brachyispira hyodysenteriae infection and identify aspects of the host immune pathways that lead to continued inflammation-induced tissue damage even after pathogen elimination.