Immune response and virus population composition: HIV as a case study

Gal Almogy, Netta Cohen, Sabine Stöcker, Lewi Stone

Abstract

Based on the current understanding of the immune response, we present what we believe to be a new model of intrahost virus dynamics. The model takes into account the relationship between virus replication rate and the level of antigen displayed by infected cells, and shows how the cell–directed immune response controls both virus load and virus replication rate. In contrast to conventional wisdom, it shows that the predominant virus variant does not necessarily have the highest replication rate. A strong immune response produces a selective advantage for latent viruses, whereas a deteriorating immune response invites in viruses of higher replication rates. The model is analysed in light of the well–studied HIV/AIDS disease progression, and shows how a wide range of major, seemingly unrelated issues in the study of HIV may be accounted for in a simple and unified manner.