Integrating Antimicrobial Therapy with Host Immunity to Fight Drug-Resistant Infections: Classical vs. Adaptive Treatment

Erida Gjini, Patrícia H. Brito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Antimicrobial resistance of infectious agents is a growing problem worldwide. To prevent the continuing selection and spread of drug resistance, rational design of antibiotic treatment is needed, and the question of aggressive vs. moderate therapies is currently heatedly debated. Host immunity is an important, but often-overlooked factor in the clearance of drug-resistant infections. In this work, we compare aggressive and moderate antibiotic treatment, accounting for host immunity effects. We use mathematical modelling of within-host infection dynamics to study the interplay between pathogen-dependent host immune responses and antibiotic treatment. We compare classical (fixed dose and duration) and adaptive (coupled to pathogen load) treatment regimes, exploring systematically infection outcomes such as time to clearance, immunopathology, host immunization, and selection of resistant bacteria. Our analysis and simulations uncover effective treatment strategies that promote synergy between the host immune system and the antimicrobial drug in clearing infection. Both in classical and adaptive treatment, we quantify how treatment timing and the strength of the immune response determine the success of moderate therapies. We explain key parameters and dimensions, where an adaptive regime differs from classical treatment, bringing new insight into the ongoing debate of resistance management. Emphasizing the sensitivity of treatment outcomes to the balance between external antibiotic intervention and endogenous natural defenses, our study calls for more empirical attention to host immunity processes.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1004857
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016


  • Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
  • Mathematical & Computational Biology


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