A unified framework of immunological and epidemiological dynamics for the spread of viral infections in a simple network-based population

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Background. The desire to better understand the immuno-biology of infectious diseases as a broader ecological system has motivated the explicit representation of epidemiological processes as a function of immune system dynamics. While several recent and innovative contributions have explored unified models across cellular and organismal domains, and appear well-suited to describing particular aspects of intracellular pathogen infections, these existing immuno-epidemiological models lack representation of certain cellular components and immunological processes needed to adequately characterize the dynamics of some important epidemiological contexts. Here, we complement existing models by presenting an alternate framework of anti-viral immune responses within individual hosts and infection spread across a simple network-based population. Results. Our compartmental formulation parsimoniously demonstrates a correlation between immune responsiveness, network connectivity, and the natural history of infection in a population. It suggests that an increased disparity between people's ability to respond to an infection, while maintaining an average immune responsiveness rate, may worsen the overall impact of an outbreak within a population. Additionally, varying an individual's network connectivity affects the rate with which the population-wide viral load accumulates, but has little impact on the asymptotic limit in which it approaches. Whilst the clearance of a pathogen in a population will lower viral loads in the short-term, the longer the time until re-infection, the more severe an outbreak is likely to be. Given the eventual likelihood of reinfection, the resulting long-run viral burden after elimination of an infection is negligible compared to the situation in which infection is persistent. Conclusion. Future infectious disease research would benefit by striving to not only continue to understand the properties of an invading microbe, or the body's response to infections, but how these properties, jointly, affect the propagation of an infection throughout a population. These initial results offer a refinement to current immuno-epidemiological modelling methodology, and reinforce how coupling principles of immunology with epidemiology can provide insight into a multi-scaled description of an ecological system. Overall, we anticipate these results to as a further step towards articulating an integrated, more refined epidemiological theory of the reciprocal influences between host-pathogen interactions, epidemiological mixing, and disease spread. © 2007 Vickers and Osgood; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.




Vickers, D. M., & Osgood, N. D. (2007). A unified framework of immunological and epidemiological dynamics for the spread of viral infections in a simple network-based population. Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling, 4. https://doi.org/10.1186/1742-4682-4-49

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