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Proc Biol Sci. 2012 Nov 7;279(1746):4505-12. Epub 2012 Sep 12.

The epidemiological consequences of immune priming.

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Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK.


Exposure to low doses of pathogens that do not result in the host becoming infectious may 'prime' the immune response and increase protection to subsequent challenge. There is increasing evidence that such immune priming is a widespread and important feature of invertebrate host-pathogen interactions. Immune priming clearly has implications for individual hosts but will also have population-level implications. We present a susceptible-primed-infectious model-in contrast to the classic susceptible-infectious-recovered framework-to investigate the impacts of immune priming on pathogen persistence and population stability. We describe impacts of immune priming on the epidemiology of the disease in both constant and seasonal environments. A key result is that immune priming may act to destabilize population dynamics. In particular, when the proportion of individuals becoming primed rather than infected is high, but this priming does not confer full immunity, the population may be strongly destabilized through the generation of limit cycles. We discuss the implications of our model both in the context of invertebrate immunity and more widely.

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