Mathematical studies of parasitic infection and immunity

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Science  24 Jun 1994:
Vol. 264, Issue 5167, pp. 1884-1886
DOI: 10.1126/science.8009218


The techniques that underpin modern molecular biology have been rapidly adopted by those interested in the major parasitic infections of humans. The parasitological literature is full of reports of genes and their amino acid sequences, of molecules, of cell membrane receptors and channels, and of the fine details of the immunological responses mounted by the host to combat infection. Much less enthusiasm has been shown for the mathematical techniques that facilitate the analysis and interpretation of dynamical processes such as transmission, evolution, and the interplay between parasite population growth and immunological responses within the host. Molecular techniques provide enormous opportunities for description, but ultimately, understanding biological systems with the precision that physicists and engineers aspire to in their own fields will require quantitative description of the many rate processes that dictate both an observed pattern and the dynamics of its change.