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Theor Popul Biol. 2007 Feb;71(1):20-9. Epub 2006 Jul 11.

On the role of cross-immunity and vaccines on the survival of less fit flu-strains.

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Department of Biostatistics, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


A pathogen's route to survival involves various mechanisms including its ability to invade (host's susceptibility) and its reproductive success within an invaded host ("infectiousness"). The immunological history of an individual often plays an important role in reducing host susceptibility or it helps the host mount a faster immunological response de facto reducing infectiousness. The cross-immunity generated by prior infections to influenza A strains from the same subtype provide a significant example. The results of this paper are based on the analytical study of a two-strain epidemic model that incorporates host isolation (during primary infection) and cross-immunity to study the role of invasion mediated cross-immunity in a population where a precursor related strain (within the same subtype, i.e. H3N2, H1N1) has already become established. An uncertainty and sensitivity analysis is carried out on the ability of the invading strain to survive for given cross-immunity levels. Our findings indicate that it is possible to support coexistence even in the case when invading strains are "unfit", that is, when the basic reproduction number of the invading strain is less than one. However, such scenarios are possible only in the presence of isolation. That is, appropriate increments in isolation rates and weak cross-immunity can facilitate the survival of less fit strains. The development of "flu" vaccines that minimally enhance herd cross-immunity levels may, by increasing genotype diversity, help facilitate the generation and survival of novel strains.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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