Journal of Mathematical Biology

, Volume 50, Issue 5, pp 531–558 | Cite as

Characterizing the symmetric equilibrium of multi-strain host-pathogen systems in the presence of cross immunity



We investigate the population dynamics of host-pathogen systems in which the pathogen has a potentially arbitrary number of antigenically distinct strains interacting via cross-immunity. The interior equilibrium configuration of the symmetric multiple strain SIR model with cross-immunity is characterized. We develop an efficient iterative method for numerically solving the equilibrium equation together with a number of informative analytical approximations to the full solution. Equilibrium properties are studied as a function of the number of strains, reproduction number, infectious period, and cross immunity profile. We establish that the prevalence in the system increases monotonically with the number of strains and the reduction in cross immunity. Moreover, we demonstrate the existence of a phase transition separating high prevalence and low prevalence parameter regions, with the critical point being defined by σR0≅1, where σ is the level of cross-immunity and R0 is the reproduction number. Above the threshold, prevalence saturates with increasing numbers of strains as a result of the inclusion of prohibition of co-infection in the model. Below the threshold, prevalence saturates much more rapidly as the number of strains increases - indicating that when cross-protection is sufficiently intense, the selective advantage for a pathogen to increase its diversity is substantially less than in the threshold region. Similarly, there is limited benefit to increased transmissibility (or decreased cross-immunity) both for the high and low diversity pathogen systems compared with systems at the threshold σR0≅1 where small increase in transmissibility can result in significant increase in prevalence.

Key words or phrases:

Infectious disease Mathematical model Strain Cross-immunity Population dynamics Antigenic variation Diversity 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Infectious Disease EpidemiologyImperial College LondonLondonUK

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