Systems Medicine of Infectious Diseases

Systems Medicine aims at gaining a holistic understanding of health and diseases that leads to personalized medicine. The research of this group aims at understanding the underlying mechanisms between the immune system and diseases. Other objectives are tailoring effective immune interventions and treatments in susceptible groups of the society like seniors and immunocompromised patients and developing new mathematical and computational methods to overcome the challenges for the translation of Systems Medicine into the clinic. All this is achieved by integrating clinical data into phenomenological models and by using computer simulations.

Our Research

HIV Persistence: Implications to HIV Cure

According to UNAIDS estimates for the year 2012, 35.3 million people are infected with the HIV worldwide and there were 2.3 million new infections and 1.6 million deaths that year. HIV therefore remains one of the major health threats. The cost associated with delivering antiretroviral drugs to people infected with HIV is overwhelming organizations and public health systems worldwide. At present, combined antiretroviral treatment (ART) potently suppresses the virus to undetectable levels in blood. However, virus persistence within different reservoirs and compartments still presents a major barrier to eradicate the virus in patients undergoing long-term antiviral combination therapy.

In our research we try to identify bio-markers and in silico tools for better prognosis of the disease progression, to develop computer-aided strategies to deplete the different HIV reservoirs, and to derive optimization algorithms and control strategies to mitigate viral mutations.


Influenza Virus Infection Dynamics

The recent outbreaks of H1N1 (swine flu), H5N1 (bird flu), and H7N9 virus infections have underlined the impact of influenza A virus infections and have shown that influenza A virus is a major health threat for humans. For example, the Mexican Institute for social security reported a total of 117,626 people with influenza-like illness in 2009. CDC reports also showed that seasonal influenza infections account for annual hospitalization of 226,000 individuals in the USA. The high degree of variability of the influenza virus due to mutations and secondary bacterial infections (Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus) are the leading causes of illness and death during influenza infection. Furthermore, the consequences of influenza virus infection are generally more severe in individuals over 65 years of age (the elderly).

Our research in Influenza Virus infection aims to identify clinical markers that are missing to indicate the course of the disease and potential complications, to provide quantitative understanding in influenza virus pathogenesis and its shift in the elderly, and to personalize antiviral and bacterial therapies to overcome mortality.