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J R Soc Interface. 2007 Feb 22;4(12):57-64.

Statistical analysis of the dynamics of antibody loss to a disease-causing agent: plague in natural populations of great gerbils as an example.

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Department of Statistics, Seoul National University, Sillim-dong, Gwanak-gu, Seoul 151-742, South Korea.


We propose a new stochastic framework for analysing the dynamics of the immunity response of wildlife hosts against a disease-causing agent. Our study is motivated by the need to analyse the monitoring time-series data covering the period from 1975 to 1995 on bacteriological and serological tests-samples from great gerbils being the main host of Yersinia pestis in Kazakhstan. Based on a four-state continuous-time Markov chain, we derive a generalized nonlinear mixed-effect model for analysing the serological test data. The immune response of a host involves the production of antibodies in response to an antigen. Our analysis shows that great gerbils recovered from a plague infection are more likely to keep their antibodies to plague and survive throughout the summer-to-winter season than throughout the winter-to-summer season. Provided the seasonal mortality rates are similar (which seems to be the case based on a mortality analysis with abundance data), our finding indicates that the immune function of the sampled great gerbils is seasonal.

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