Variable effect of HIV superinfection on clinical status: Insights from mathematical modeling

Ágnes Móréh, András Szilágyi, István Scheuring, Viktor Müller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


HIV superinfection (infection of an HIV positive individual with another strain of the virus) has been shown to result in a deterioration of clinical status in multiple case studies. However, superinfection with no (or positive) clinical outcome might easily go unnoticed, and the typical effect of superinfection is unknown. We analyzed mathematical models of HIV dynamics to assess the effect of superinfection under various assumptions. We extended the basic model of virus dynamics to explore systematically a set of model variants incorporating various details of HIV infection (homeostatic target cell dynamics, bystander killing, interference competition between viral clones, multiple target cell types, virus-induced activation of target cells). In each model, we identified the conditions for superinfection, and investigated whether and how successful invasion by a second viral strain affects the level of uninfected target cells. In the basic model, and in some of its extensions, the criteria for invasion necessarily entail a decrease in the equilibrium abundance of uninfected target cells. However, we identified three novel scenarios where superinfection can substantially increase the uninfected cell count: (i) if the rate of new infections saturates at high infectious titers (due to interference competition or cell-autonomous innate immunity); or when the invading strain is more efficient at infecting activated target cells, but less efficient at (ii) activating quiescent cells or (iii) inducing bystander killing of these cells. In addition, multiple target cell types also allow for modest increases in the total target cell count. We thus conclude that the effect of HIV superinfection on clinical status might be variable, complicated by factors that are independent of the invasion fitness of the second viral strain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1634
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberJUL
Publication statusPublished - Jul 23 2018


  • AIDS
  • HIV superinfection
  • Invasion analysis
  • Mathematical model
  • Virus dynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)

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