Paper shows new mathematical model for latent infections

In a paper published in last month's issue of SIAM Journal of Applied Mathematics, Wenjing Zhang, Lindi M. Wahl and Pei Yu showed a new mathematical model able to better study persistent infections.

The model focuses on latent infections, a type of persistent infection. These kinds of infections go into a cycle where there is no activity, making them very difficult to detect. These periods are interrupted by episodes of active viral production and release. One example of a latent infection is HIV.

"Mathematical modeling has been critical to our understanding of HIV, particularly during the clinically latent stage of infection," Yu said. "The extremely rapid turnover of the viral population during this quiescent stage of infection was first demonstrated through modeling, and came as a surprise to the clinical community. This was seen as one of the major triumphs of mathematical immunology: an extremely important result through the coupling of patient data and an appropriate modeling approach."

The paper, entitled "Conditions for Transient Viremia in Deterministic in-Host Models: Viral Blips Need No Exogenous Trigger," showed how the authors used dynamical systems theory to reinvestigate in-host infection models. After finding no exogenous triggers are needed for a viral blip, the authors proposed a simple 2-, 3- or 4- dimensional model to better view and understand latent infections.

"We are currently extending this approach to other infections, and more broadly to other diseases that display recurrence," Yu said.