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J Theor Biol. 2006 Aug 7;241(3):477-87. Epub 2006 Jan 20.

Localized contacts between hosts reduce pathogen diversity.

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  • 1Centro de Física Teórica e Computacional and Departamento de Física, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa, P-1649-003 Lisboa Codex, Portugal. anunes@ptmat.fc.ul.pt

Abstract

We investigate the dynamics of a simple epidemiological model for the invasion by a pathogen strain of a population where another strain circulates. We assume that reinfection by the same strain is possible but occurs at a reduced rate due to acquired immunity. The rate of reinfection by a distinct strain is also reduced due to cross-immunity. Individual based simulations of this model on a 'small-world' network show that the proportion of local contacts in the host contact network structure significantly affects the outcome of such an invasion, and as a consequence will affect the patterns of pathogen evolution. In particular, hosts interacting through a 'small-world' network of contacts support lower prevalence of infection than well-mixed populations, and the region in parameter space for which an invading strain can become endemic and coexist with the circulating strain is smaller, reducing the potential to accommodate pathogen diversity. We discuss the underlying mechanisms for the reported effects, and we propose an effective mean-field model to account for the contact structure of the host population in 'small-world' networks.

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