How does the vertebrate immune system prioritise competing cytokine responses – for example, during helminth-microparasite co-infection?
Helminths (parasitic worms) and microparasites (viruses, bacteria, protozoa, or fungi) commonly co-occur and are cleared by different, mutually inhibitory suites of cytokines. Malaria and intestinal nematodes, for example, make conflicting demands on host cytokine responses. Evolutionary rationale suggests that the immune system should prioritise responses directed against the infection most damaging to host fitness – in this case, malaria. We are quantitatively testing that prediction.
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