Paediatric Infectious Diseases, St George's Hospital.
MRC Clinical Trials Unit, Institute of Clinical Trials and Methodology, University College London.
Section of Paediatrics, Imperial College, London, UK.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW:
Advances in diagnostic methods mean that co-infections are increasingly being detected in clinical practice, yet their significance is not always obvious. In parallel, basic science studies are increasingly investigating interactions between pathogens to try to explain real-life observations and elucidate biological mechanisms.
Co-infections may be insignificant, detrimental, or even beneficial, and these outcomes can occur through multiple levels of interactions which include modulation of the host response, altering the performance of diagnostic tests, and drug-drug interactions during treatment. The harmful effects of chronic co-infections such as tuberculosis or Hepatitis B and C in association with HIV are well established, and recent studies have focussed on strategies to mitigate these effects. However, consequences of many acute co-infections are much less certain, and recent conflicting findings simply highlight many of the challenges of studying naturally acquired infections in humans.
Tackling these challenges, using animal models, or careful prospective studies in humans may prove to be worthwhile. There are already tantalizing examples where identification and treatment of relevant co-infections seems to hold promise for improved health outcomes.