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Why are hosts prone to producing overzealous responses that cost proteins and may actually even cause disease?

An optimal immune response requires the right type AND the right amount of activity: overzealous responses deplete host resources and can cause severe tissue damage.  Immune systems can thus kill hosts as well as parasites.  We are investigating the dynamics of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine production during malaria, to assess phenotypic constraints on immunomodulation.  We are also assessing whether malaria parasite genotypes differ in the extent to which they induce and benefit from immunopathology. Finally, given the concomitant costs and benefits of immunity, we are working to understand selection on the magnitude of antibody responses in natural populations such as the Soay sheep of St. Kilda. Learn more about the sheep project.

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