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Science. 1998 May 8;280(5365):912-5.

Chaos, persistence, and evolution of strain structure in antigenically diverse infectious agents.

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  • 1Wellcome Trust Centre for the Epidemiology of Infectious Disease, Zoology Department, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK.


The effects of selection by host immune responses on transmission dynamics was analyzed in a broad class of antigenically diverse pathogens. Strong selection can cause pathogen populations to stably segregate into discrete strains with nonoverlapping antigenic repertoires. However, over a wide range of intermediate levels of selection, strain structure is unstable, varying in a manner that is either cyclical or chaotic. These results have implications for the interpretation of longitudinal epidemiological data on strain or serotype abundance, design of surveillance strategies, and the assessment of multivalent vaccine trials.

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