Minimal within-host dengue models highlight the specific roles of the immune response in primary and secondary dengue infections

Rotem Ben-Shachar and Katia Koelle

Journal of the Royal Society, Interface

December 17, 2015


In recent years, the within-host viral dynamics of dengue infections have been increasingly characterized, and the relationship between aspects of these dynamics and the manifestation of severe disease has been increasingly probed. Despite this progress, there are few mathematical models of within-host dengue dynamics, and the ones that exist focus primarily on the general role of immune cells in the clearance of infected cells, while neglecting other components of the immune response in limiting viraemia. Here, by considering a suite of mathematical within-host dengue models of increasing complexity, we aim to isolate the critical components of the innate and the adaptive immune response that suffice in the reproduction of several well-characterized features of primary and secondary dengue infections. By building up from a simple target cell limited model, we show that only the innate immune response is needed to recover the characteristic features of a primary symptomatic dengue infection, while a higher rate of viral infectivity (indicative of antibody-dependent enhancement) and infected cell clearance by T cells are further needed to recover the characteristic features of a secondary dengue infection. We show that these minimal models can reproduce the increased risk of disease associated with secondary heterologous infections that arises as a result of a cytokine storm, and, further, that they are consistent with virological indicators that predict the onset of severe disease, such as the magnitude of peak viraemia, time to peak viral load, and viral clearance rate. Finally, we show that the effectiveness of these virological indicators to predict the onset of severe disease depends on the contribution of T cells in fuelling the cytokine storm.