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

Laith Aburaddad, N. M. Ferguson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)


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 σ R0 ≅ 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 σ R0 ≅ 1 where small increase in transmissibility can result in significant increase in prevalence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)531-558
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Mathematical Biology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes



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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Mathematics (miscellaneous)

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