Many chemotherapeutic regimens produce neutropenia, which predisposes to microbial infection. However, not all neutropenic individuals develop infections, so the ability to predict this outcome would be a powerful clinical tool. In this issue of the JCI, Malka et al. describe a dynamic system model of neutrophil bactericidal activity that confirms and extends the concept of critical neutrophil concentration. The authors demonstrate that when the neutrophil concentration approaches the critical concentration, bacterial populations in contact with them exhibit bistability. Their experimental findings raise the intriguing possibility of greater variability in bactericidal activity of neutrophils from healthy adults than heretofore recognized; their model predicts that this could have life-and-death consequences.
Samuel C. Silverstein, Raul Rabadan