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Am Nat. 2006 Aug;168(2):230-41. Epub 2006 Jul 10.

Coexistence and specialization of pathogen strains on contact networks.

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Department of Biological Sciences and Mathematics Institute, University of Warwick, Gibbet Hill Road, Coventry CV4 7AL, United Kingdom.


The coexistence of different pathogen strains has implications for pathogen variability and disease control and has been explained in a number of different ways. We use contact networks, which represent interactions between individuals through which infection could be transmitted, to investigate strain coexistence. For sexually transmitted diseases the structure of contact networks has received detailed study and has been shown to be a vital determinant of the epidemiological dynamics. By using analytical pairwise models and stochastic simulations, we demonstrate that network structure also has a profound influence on the interaction between pathogen strains. In particular, when the population is serially monogamous, fully cross-reactive strains can coexist, with different strains dominating in network regions with different characteristics. Furthermore, we observe specialization of different strains in different risk groups within the network, suggesting the existence of diverging evolutionary pressures.

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