Confronting physiology: how do infected flies die?


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Fruit fly immunology is on the verge of an exciting new path. The fruit fly has served as a strong model for innate immune responses; the field is now expanding to use the fruit fly to study pathogenesis. We argue here that, to understand pathogenesis in the fly, we need to understand pathology – and to understand pathology, we need to confront physiology with molecular tools.

When flies are infected with a pathogen, they get sick. We group the events following infection into three categories: innate immune responses (defence mechanisms by which the fly attempts to kill or neutralize the microbe, some of which can themselves cause harm to the fly); microbial virulence (mechanisms by which the microbe evades the immune response); and host pathology (physiologies adversely affected by either the immune response or microbial virulence). We divide this review into sections mirroring these categories. The molecular study of infection in the fruit fly has focused on the first category, has begun to explore the second, and has yet to tap the full potential of the fly regarding the third.