Israeli researchers have made a significant discovery they say could open new doors to personalized medicine in the field of infectious diseases.
Infectious diseases occur when microorganisms—such as viruses, bacteria or parasites—invade and multiply within the human body, damaging the cells. Traditionally, the medical community has studied the immune response to infectious diseases as a collective unit. While personalized medicine is already utilized in certain diseases such as cancer, its application in infectious diseases has been limited.
However, a Tel Aviv University research team led by Professors Irit Gat-Viks and Eran Bacharach of the Shmunis School of Biomedicine and Cancer Research has successfully classified two crucial components of the immune response that occur during severe infectious diseases. This classification was achieved through a combination of experimental techniques and computational tools.
The TAU team’s findings were recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Cell Systems.
“In the general population, people react differently to infections, and therefore there is a need for medical tools to indicate how each person is expected to react to a certain infectious disease,” Gat-Viks said. “Until now, there have been only very general indicators to characterize these diseases, such as inflammatory markers, fever, urine tests, etc.”
She explained that based on these indicators, analyses of the response to the infection that appeared rather uniform could be divided into different responses according to the new classification.
Elaborating, Bacharach said, “We were able to observe the response of the immune system with high resolution and identify two main types of responses: one, in which the immune system fights a pathogen that has entered the body, and the other type, in which the damage to the body ‘after the war’ with the pathogen is repaired. In our research, we used disease models in animals, computational tools and information collected from people with different markers in their bodies that are indicators of the type of response to the pathogen.”
With this new development, the researchers are optimistic about the possibility of providing more effective treatments tailored to individual patients.
“People with extreme reactions to infection with microorganisms such as viruses or bacteria lack an adequate medical response today. We believe that thanks to our research, doctors will be able to better diagnose the patient’s condition and, as a result, provide effective treatment that will improve the patient’s chances of recovery,” Gat-Vicks said.