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FEMS Immunol Med Microbiol. 2001 Aug;31(2):137-43.

Modelling of endemic carriage of Haemophilus influenzae in Aboriginal infants in Northern Australia.

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Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, Australia.


Aboriginal infants and children in rural communities in Northern Australia have high rates of nasopharyngeal carriage of nonencapsulated Haemophilus influenzae (NCHi), with positive swab rates of 76%. In this population, the acquisition of NCHi from soon after birth is associated with the onset of otitis media and with muco-purulent nasal discharge, while the long-term persistence of NCHi carriage is associated with the acquisition and turnover of large numbers of antigenically diverse strains. Mathematical models have been fitted to data on the acquisition and loss of encapsulated strains of H. influenzae and 43 different strains of NCHi in 10 children followed from early infancy for up to 2 years. Subject to plausible assumptions, the preferred model estimated the mean time to acquisition of a H. influenzae strain to be 7 days after first becoming exposed after birth. For an infant already carrying H. influenzae, each additional strain was acquired after a mean waiting period of 45 days. On average, 1.50 different strains of H. influenzae were detected in four colonies routinely typed from each positive swab, but it was estimated that another 2.55 strains were 'hidden' behind these more frequent strains. With an average of 4.05 strains per carrier, it was estimated that each strain was carried for an average of 137 days, although detected on only 37% of occasions. Thus we have developed mathematical models that provide estimates for duration of colonisation, time to colonisation, and number of colonising strains in a population in which H. influenzae is highly endemic, characterised by sequential and concurrent carriage of multiple strains in each infant.

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