A critical question in tuberculosis control is why some strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis are preferentially associated with multiple drug resistances. We demonstrate that M. tuberculosis strains from Lineage 2 (East Asian lineage and Beijing sublineage) acquire drug resistances in vitro more rapidly than M. tuberculosis strains from Lineage 4 (Euro-American lineage) and that this higher rate can be attributed to a higher mutation rate. Moreover, the in vitro mutation rate correlates well with the bacterial mutation rate in humans as determined by whole genome sequencing of clinical isolates. Finally, using a stochastic mathematical model, we demonstrate that the observed differences in mutation rate predict a substantially higher probability that patients infected with a drug susceptible Lineage 2 strain will harbor multidrug resistant bacteria at the time of diagnosis. These data suggest that interventions to prevent the emergence of drug resistant tuberculosis should target bacterial as well as treatment-related risk factors.
Whole genome sequencing of 616 asymptomatically carried pneumococci was used to study the impact of the 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. Comparison of closely related isolates revealed the role of transformation in facilitating capsule switching to non-vaccine serotypes and the emergence of drug resistance. However, such recombination was found to occur at significantly different rates across the species, and the evolution of the population was primarily driven by changes in the frequency of distinct genotypes extant pre-vaccine. These alterations resulted in little overall effect on accessory genome composition at the population level, contrasting with the fall in pneumococcal disease rates after the vaccine’s introduction.
Whole genome sequencing of 616 asymptomatically carried pneumococci was
used to study the impact of the 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.
Comparison of closely related isolates revealed the role of transformation in
facilitating capsule switching to non-vaccine serotypes and the emergence of
drug resistance. However, such recombination was found to occur at significantly
different rates across the species, and the evolution of the population was
primarily driven by changes in the frequency of distinct genotypes extant
pre-vaccine. These alterations resulted in little overall effect on accessory
genome composition at the population level, contrasting with the fall in
pneumococcal disease rates after the vaccine’s introduction.
Existing methods for estimation of mortality attributable to influenza are limited by methodological and data uncertainty. We have used proxies for disease incidence of the three influenza co-circulating subtypes (A/H3N2, A/H1N1 and B) that combine data on influenza-like illness consultations and respiratory specimen testing to estimate influenza-associated mortality in the US between 1997 and 2007.
Weekly mortality rate for several mortality causes potentially affected by influenza was regressed linearly against subtype-specific influenza incidence proxies, adjusting for temporal trend and seasonal baseline, modeled by periodic cubic splines.
Average annual influenza-associated mortality rates per 100,000 individuals were estimated for the following underlying causes of death: for pneumonia and influenza, 1.73 (95% confidence interval= 1.53 to 1.93); for chronic lower respiratory disease, 1.70 (1.48 to 1.93); for all respiratory causes, 3.58 (3.04 to 4.14); for myocardial infarctions, 1.02 (0.85 to 1.2); for ischemic heart disease, 2.7 (2.23 to 3.16); for heart disease, 3.82 (3.21 to 4.4); for cerebrovascular deaths, 0.65 (0.51 to 0.78); for all circulatory causes, 4.6 (3.79 to 5.39); for cancer, 0.87 (0.68 to 1.05); for diabetes, 0.33 (0.26 to 0.39); for renal disease, 0.19 (0.14 to 0.24); for Alzheimer disease, 0.41 (0.3 to 0.52); and for all causes, 11.92 (10.17 to 13.67). For several underlying causes of death, baseline mortality rates changed after the introduction of the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.
The proposed methodology establishes a linear relation between influenza incidence proxies and excess mortality, rendering temporally consistent model fits, and allowing for the assessment of related epidemiologic phenomena such as changes in mortality baselines.
The growing prevalence of antimicrobial resistance in major pathogens is outpacing discovery of new antimicrobial classes. Vaccines mitigate the effect of antimicrobial resistance by reducing the need for treatment, but vaccines for many drug-resistant pathogens remain undiscovered or have limited efficacy, in part because some vaccines selectively favor pathogen strains that escape vaccine-induced immunity. A strain with even a modest advantage in vaccinated hosts can have high fitness in a population with high vaccine coverage, which can offset a strong selection pressure such as antimicrobial use that occurs in a small fraction of hosts. We propose a strategy to target vaccines against drug-resistant pathogens, by using resistance-conferring proteins as antigens in multicomponent vaccines. Resistance determinants may be weakly immunogenic, offering only modest specific protection against resistant strains. Therefore, we assess here how varying the specific efficacy of the vaccine against resistant strains would affect the proportion of drug-resistant vs. –sensitive strains population-wide for three pathogens – Streptococcus pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, and influenza virus – in which drug resistance is a problem. Notably, if such vaccines confer even slightly higher protection (additional efficacy between 1% and 8%) against resistant variants than sensitive ones, they may be an effective tool in controlling the rise of resistant strains, given current levels of use for many antimicrobial agents. We show that the population-wide impact of such vaccines depends on the additional effect on resistant strains and on the overall effect (against all strains). Resistance-conferring accessory gene products or resistant alleles of essential genes could be valuable as components of vaccines even if their specific protective effect is weak.
The average age of infection is expected to vary during seasonal epidemics in a way that is predictable from the epidemiological features, such as the duration of infectiousness and the nature of population mixing. However, it is not known whether such changes can be detected and verified using routinely collected data. We examined the correlation between the weekly number and average age of cases using data on pre-vaccination measles and rotavirus. We show that age–incidence patterns can be observed and predicted for these childhood infections. Incorporating additional information about important features of the transmission dynamics improves the correspondence between model predictions and empirical data. We then explored whether knowledge of the age–incidence pattern can shed light on the epidemiological features of diseases of unknown aetiology, such as Kawasaki disease (KD). Our results indicate KD is unlikely to be triggered by a single acute immunizing infection, but is consistent with an infection of longer duration, a non-immunizing infection or co-infection with an acute agent and one with longer duration. Age–incidence patterns can lend insight into important epidemiological features of infections, providing information on transmission-relevant population mixing for known infections and clues about the aetiology of complex paediatric diseases.
infectious disease dynamics; mathematical modelling; seasonality
Competition through cross-reacting host immune responses, a form of apparent competition, is a major driver of pathogen evolution and diversity. Most models of pathogens have focused on intraspecific interactions to explain observed patterns. Two recent experiments suggested that Haemophilus influenzae, a common nasopharyngeal colonizer of humans, might alter the immune environment in a way that favors otherwise less fit serotypes of another common pathogen, pneumococcus. Using a computational model, we demonstrate that H. influenzae, if it consistently raises the fitness of the less fit serotypes, can strongly promote pneumococcal diversity. However, the effects of H. influenzae are so sensitive to the prevalence of H. influenzae that this species is unlikely to be the main driver of serotype coexistence. Interactions that significantly affect diversity could furthermore be extremely difficult to detect through co-occurrence analysis alone. These results suggest that small differences in strains’ adaptations to different immunological regimes, which are shaped by coinfections with other pathogens, can have dramatic effects on strain dynamics and patterns of phenotypic variation. Studies of microbial communities might therefore benefit from the use of varied approaches to infer the presence of indirect interactions.
apparent competition; pneumococcus; Haemophilus influenzae; microbiome; immunity; pathogen
Several mathematical models of epidemic cholera have recently been proposed in response to outbreaks in Zimbabwe and Haiti. These models aim to estimate the dynamics of cholera transmission and the impact of possible interventions, with a goal of providing guidance to policy-makers in deciding among alternative courses of action, including vaccination, provision of clean water, and antibiotics. Here we discuss concerns about model misspecification, parameter uncertainty, and spatial heterogeneity intrinsic to models for cholera. We argue for caution in interpreting quantitative predictions, particularly predictions of the effectiveness of interventions. We specify sensitivity analyses that would be necessary to improve confidence in model-based quantitative prediction, and suggest types of monitoring in future epidemic settings that would improve analysis and prediction.
Different capsular serotypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae vary markedly in their ability to cause invasive infection, but the reasons why are not known. As immunity to S. pneumoniae infection is highly complement dependent, variations in sensitivity to complement between S. pneumoniae capsular serotypes could affect invasiveness. We have used 20 capsule-switched variants of strain TIGR4 to investigate whether differences in the binding of the alternative pathway inhibitor factor H (FH) could be one mechanism causing variations in complement resistance and invasive potential between capsular serotypes. Flow cytometry assays were used to assess complement factor binding and complement-dependent neutrophil association for the TIGR4 capsule-switched strains. FH binding varied with the serotype and inversely correlated with the results of factor B binding, C3b/iC3b deposition, and neutrophil association. Differences between strains in FH binding were lost when assays were repeated with pspC mutant strains, and loss of PspC also reduced differences in C3b/iC3b deposition between strains. Median FH binding was high in capsule-switched mutant strains expressing more invasive serotypes, and a principal component analysis demonstrated a strong correlation between serotype invasiveness, high FH binding, and resistance to complement and neutrophil association. Further data obtained with 33 clinical strains also demonstrated that FH binding negatively correlated with C3b/iC3b deposition and that median FH binding was high in strains expressing more invasive serotypes. These data suggest that variations in complement resistance between S. pneumoniae strains and the association of a serotype with invasiveness could be related to capsular serotype effects on FH binding.
There are more than 90 serotypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae, with varying biologic and epidemiologic properties. Animal studies suggest that carriage induces an acquired immune response that reduces duration of colonization in a non-serotype-specific fashion.
We studied pneumococcal nasopharyngeal carriage longitudinally in Kenyan children aged 3-59 months, following up positive swabs at days 2, 4, 8, 16, and 32, and then monthly thereafter until two swabs were negative for the original serotype. As previously reported, 1868/2840 (66%) of children swabbed at baseline were positive. We estimated acquisition, clearance and competition parameters for 27 serotypes using a Markov transition model .
Point estimates of type-specific acquisition rates ranged from 0.00025/day (type 1) to 0.0031/day (type 19F). Point estimates of time to clearance (inverse of type-specific immune clearance rate) ranged from 28 days (type 20) to 124 days (type 6A). For the serotype most resistant to competition (type 19F), acquisition of other serotypes was 52% less likely (95% confidence interval= 37%-63%) than in an uncolonized host. Fitness components (carriage duration, acquisition rate, lack of susceptibility to competition) were positively correlated with each other and with baseline prevalence, and were associated with biologic properties previously shown to associate with serotype. Duration of carriage declined with age for most serotypes.
Common S. pneumoniae serotypes appear superior in many dimensions of fitness. Differences in rate of immune clearance are attenuated as children age and become capable of more rapid clearance of the longest-lived serotypes. These findings provide information for comparison after introduction of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.
We sought to measure trends in Streptococcus pneumoniae (SP) carriage and antibiotic resistance in young children in Massachusetts communities after widespread adoption of heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) and before the introduction of the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13).
We conducted a cross-sectional study including collection of questionnaire data and nasopharyngeal specimens among children <7 years in primary care practices from 8 Massachusetts communities during the winter season of 2008–9 and compared with to similar studies performed in 2001, 2003–4, and 2006–7. Antimicrobial susceptibility testing and serotyping were performed on pneumococcal isolates, and risk factors for colonization in recent seasons (2006–07 and 2008–09) were evaluated.
We collected nasopharyngeal specimens from 1,011 children, 290 (29%) of whom were colonized with pneumococcus. Non-PCV7 serotypes accounted for 98% of pneumococcal isolates, most commonly 19A (14%), 6C (11%), and 15B/C (11%). In 2008–09, newly-targeted PCV13 serotypes accounted for 20% of carriage isolates and 41% of penicillin non-susceptible S. pneumoniae (PNSP). In multivariate models, younger age, child care, young siblings, and upper respiratory illness remained predictors of pneumococcal carriage, despite near-complete serotype replacement. Only young age and child care were significantly associated with PNSP carriage.
Serotype replacement post-PCV7 is essentially complete and has been sustained in young children, with the relatively virulent 19A being the most common serotype. Predictors of carriage remained similar despite serotype replacement. PCV13 may reduce 19A and decrease antibiotic-resistant strains, but monitoring for new serotype replacement is warranted.
Streptococcus pneumoniae; pneumococcal conjugate vaccine; antibiotic resistance; serotype; colonization
Low absolute humidity (AH) has been associated with increased influenza virus survival and transmissibility and the onset of seasonal influenza outbreaks. Humidification of indoor environments may mitigate viral transmission and may be an important control strategy, particularly in schools where viral transmission is common and contributes to the spread of influenza in communities. However, the variability and predictors of AH in the indoor school environment and the feasibility of classroom humidification to levels that could decrease viral survival have not been studied.
Automated sensors were used to measure temperature, humidity and CO2 levels in two Minnesota grade schools without central humidification during two successive winters. Outdoor AH measurements were derived from the North American Land Data Assimilation System. Variability in indoor AH within classrooms, between classrooms in the same school, and between schools was assessed using concordance correlation coefficients (CCC). Predictors of indoor AH were examined using time-series Auto-Regressive Conditional Heteroskedasticity models. Classroom humidifiers were used when school was not in session to assess the feasibility of increasing indoor AH to levels associated with decreased influenza virus survival, as projected from previously published animal experiments.
AH varied little within classrooms (CCC >0.90) but was more variable between classrooms in the same school (CCC 0.81 for School 1, 0.88 for School 2) and between schools (CCC 0.81). Indoor AH varied widely during the winter (range 2.60 to 10.34 millibars [mb]) and was strongly associated with changes in outdoor AH (p < 0.001). Changes in indoor AH on school weekdays were strongly associated with CO2 levels (p < 0.001). Over 4 hours, classroom humidifiers increased indoor AH by 4 mb, an increase sufficient to decrease projected 1-hour virus survival by an absolute value of 30% during winter months.
During winter, indoor AH in non-humidified grade schools varies substantially and often to levels that are very low. Indoor results are predicted by outdoor AH over a season and CO2 levels (which likely reflects human activity) during individual school days. Classroom humidification may be a feasible approach to increase indoor AH to levels that may decrease influenza virus survival and transmission.
Influenza; Humidity; Schools; Climate
The large outbreak of diarrhea and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) caused by Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O104:H4 in Europe from May to July 2011 highlighted the potential of a rarely identified E. coli serogroup to cause severe disease. Prior to the outbreak, there were very few reports of disease caused by this pathogen and thus little known of its diversity and evolution. The identification of cases of HUS caused by E. coli O104:H4 in France and Turkey after the outbreak and with no clear epidemiological links raises questions about whether these sporadic cases are derived from the outbreak. Here, we report genome sequences of five independent isolates from these cases and results of a comparative analysis with historical and 2011 outbreak isolates. These analyses revealed that the five isolates are not derived from the outbreak strain; however, they are more closely related to the outbreak strain and each other than to isolates identified prior to the 2011 outbreak. Over the short time scale represented by these closely related organisms, the majority of genome variation is found within their mobile genetic elements: none of the nine O104:H4 isolates compared here contain the same set of plasmids, and their prophages and genomic islands also differ. Moreover, the presence of closely related HUS-associated E. coli O104:H4 isolates supports the contention that fully virulent O104:H4 isolates are widespread and emphasizes the possibility of future food-borne E. coli O104:H4 outbreaks.
In the summer of 2011, a large outbreak of bloody diarrhea with a high rate of severe complications took place in Europe, caused by a previously rarely seen Escherichia coli strain of serogroup O104:H4. Identification of subsequent infections caused by E. coli O104:H4 raised questions about whether these new cases represented ongoing transmission of the outbreak strain. In this study, we sequenced the genomes of isolates from five recent cases and compared them with historical isolates. The analyses reveal that, in the very short term, evolution of the bacterial genome takes place in parts of the genome that are exchanged among bacteria, and these regions contain genes involved in adaptation to local environments. We show that these recent isolates are not derived from the outbreak strain but are very closely related and share many of the same disease-causing genes, emphasizing the concern that these bacteria may cause future severe outbreaks.
Background. We assessed the impact of 12 years of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) use on pneumococcal nasopharyngeal carriage and serotype-specific invasive disease potential among Native Americans.
Methods. Families were enrolled in a carriage study from 2006 to 2008; nasopharyngeal specimens and risk factor information were collected monthly for 7 visits. Pneumococcal carriage prevalence was compared with that before (1998–2000) and during (2001–2002) PCV7 introduction. We compared invasive disease incidence and carriage prevalence before and after PCV7 introduction to estimate changes in serotype-specific invasive potential.
Results. We enrolled 1077 subjects from 302 households. There was an absolute reduction in carriage prevalence of 8.0% (95% confidence interval [CI], 4.5%–11.4%) in children aged <5 years and 3.1% (95% CI, 1.1%–5.1%) in adults. In children aged <5 years, vaccine-serotype carriage prevalence decreased by 22.8% (95% CI, 20.1%–25.3%), and nonvaccine serotype (NVT) increased by 15.9% (95% CI, 12.4%–19.3%). No significant change was detected in serotype-specific invasive potential after PCV7 introduction.
Conclusions. Pneumococcal carriage prevalence decreased in all ages since PCV7 introduction; vaccine-serotype carriage has been nearly eliminated, whereas the prevalence of NVT carriage has increased. The increase in the NVT invasive disease rate seems to be proportional to the increase in colonization prevalence.
Helicobacter pylori seroprevalence levels in US adults participating in the continuous National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999–2000) increased with age in all racial/ethnic groups, with significantly higher age-standardized levels in Mexican Americans (64.0%, 95% confidence interval (CI): 58.8, 69.2) and non-Hispanic blacks (52.0%, 95% CI: 48.3, 55.7) compared with non-Hispanic whites (21.2%, 95% CI: 19.1, 23.2). Although seroprevalence levels remained similar to those found in National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 1988 to 1991 among non-Hispanic blacks and Mexican Americans, they were significantly lower in non-Hispanic whites, especially at older ages. The factors driving the decline in H. pylori seroprevalence appear to be acting preferentially on the non-Hispanic white population.
cohort effect; ethnic groups; health status disparities; Helicobacter pylori; nutrition surveys; seroepidemiologic studies
Experience with influenza has shown that predictions of virus phenotype or fitness from nucleotide sequence are imperfect, and that predicting the timing and course of evolution is extremely difficult. Such uncertainty means that the risk of experiments with mammalian-transmissible, possibly highly virulent influenza viruses remains high even if some aspects of their laboratory biology are reassuring; it also implies limitations on the ability of laboratory observations to guide interpretation of surveillance of strains in the field. Given these considerations, we propose that future experiments with virulent pathogens whose accidental or deliberate release could lead to extensive spread in human populations should be limited by explicit risk-benefit considerations, in the United States and worldwide.
Vaccination with the protein-polysaccharide conjugate vaccine, PCV7, has significantly reduced the burden of pneumococcal disease in populations where it is in widespread use and has had an important public health benefit. This vaccine targets only 7 of the more than 92 pneumococcal serotypes, and there have been concerns that the non-vaccine serotypes (NVTs) could increase in prevalence and reduce the benefits of vaccination. Indeed, among asymptomatic carriers, the prevalence of NVTs has increased substantially, and as a result, there has been little or no net change in the carriage prevalence of the bacteria. In many populations, there has been an increase in pneumococcal disease caused by NVT, but in most cases this increase in NVT disease has been less than the increase in NVT carriage. In this article, we review the evidence for serotype replacement in carriage and disease and address the surveillance biases that might affect these findings. We then discuss possible reasons for the discrepancy between near-complete replacement in carriage and partial replacement for disease, and address the possibility that differences in invasiveness between vaccine serotypes and those causing replacement could contribute to this difference. We contend that the magnitude of serotype replacement in disease can be attributed, in part, to a combination of lower invasiveness of the replacing serotypes, biases in the pre-vaccine carriage data (unmasking), and biases in the disease surveillance systems that could underestimate the true amount of replacement. We conclude by discussing the potential for serotype replacement in disease in the future and the need for ongoing surveillance.
Antigenic variation to evade host immunity has long been assumed to be a driving force of diversifying selection in pathogens. Colonization by Streptococcus pneumoniae, which is central to the organism's transmission and therefore evolution, is limited by two arms of the immune system: antibody- and T cell- mediated immunity. In particular, the effector activity of CD4+ TH17 cell mediated immunity has been shown to act in trans, clearing co-colonizing pneumococci that do not bear the relevant antigen. It is thus unclear whether TH17 cell immunity allows benefit of antigenic variation and contributes to diversifying selection. Here we show that antigen-specific CD4+ TH17 cell immunity almost equally reduces colonization by both an antigen-positive strain and a co-colonized, antigen-negative strain in a mouse model of pneumococcal carriage, thus potentially minimizing the advantage of escape from this type of immunity. Using a proteomic screening approach, we identified a list of candidate human CD4+ TH17 cell antigens. Using this list and a previously published list of pneumococcal Antibody antigens, we bioinformatically assessed the signals of diversifying selection among the identified antigens compared to non-antigens. We found that Antibody antigen genes were significantly more likely to be under diversifying selection than the TH17 cell antigen genes, which were indistinguishable from non-antigens. Within the Antibody antigens, epitopes recognized by human antibodies showed stronger evidence of diversifying selection. Taken together, the data suggest that TH17 cell-mediated immunity, one form of T cell immunity that is important to limit carriage of antigen-positive pneumococcus, favors little diversifying selection in the targeted antigen. The results could provide new insight into pneumococcal vaccine design.
Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus, is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in young children and elderly persons worldwide. Current pneumococcus vaccines target a limited number of clinically important serotypes, while strains with serotypes not targeted by current vaccines are increasing in importance in both carriage and invasive disease. As a result, there has been a substantial interest to develop novel, cost-effective vaccines based on protein antigens from pneumococcus. To this end, it is critical to understand how the human immune system exerts selection pressures on the targeted antigens. Two immune mechanisms targeting pneumococcal protein antigens have been documented, mediated by antibody and T cells, respectively. In this study, we screened for pneumococcal antigens that are commonly recognized by human CD4+ TH17 cells. Using a mouse model of pneumococcal colonization, we demonstrate that TH17 cell-based immunity almost equally reduces colonization by both an antigen-positive strain and a co-colonizing, antigen-negative strain. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the DNA sequences of TH17 cell antigens demonstrate no detectable signs of being under selective pressure, unlike pneumococcal antigens known to be strong antibody targets. Thus, one form of the T cell-mediated immunity that is important to limit carriage of antigen-positive pneumococcus favors little diversifying selection in the targeted antigen. These results suggest evolution of escape from TH17 -based vaccines may be slower than from antibody-based vaccines.
If accidentally released, mammalian-transmissible influenza A/H5N1 viruses could pose a greater threat to public health than possibly any other infectious agent currently under study in laboratories, because of such viruses’ likely combination of transmissibility and virulence to humans. We advocate explicit risk-benefit assessments before work on such pathogens is permitted or funded, improvement of biosafety practices and enforcement, and harmonization of criteria for permitting such experiments across government agencies, as well as internationally. Such potential pandemic pathogens, as they have been called, jeopardize not only laboratory workers and their contacts, but also the wider population, who should be involved in assessments of when such risks are acceptable in the service of scientific knowledge that may itself bear major public health benefits.
Despite extensive research on the emergence of and treatments for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), prior studies have not rigorously evaluated the impact of methicillin resistance on the overall incidence of S. aureus infections. Yet, there are direct clinical and research implications of determining whether methicillin-susceptible S. aureus (MSSA) infection rates remain stable in the face of increasing MRSA prevalence or whether MSSA will be replaced over time. A synthesis of prior studies indicates that the emergence of healthcare-associated MRSA (HA-MRSA) and community-associated MRSA (CA-MRSA) has led to an increase in the overall incidence of S. aureus infections, with MRSA principally adding to, rather than replacing, MSSA. However, colonization with CA-MRSA may at least partially replace colonization with MSSA. So far, evidence indicates that MSSA still accounts for many infections. Therefore, eradication of MRSA alone is not sufficient to address the public health burden of S. aureus.
bacterial resistance; staphylococcal infections; healthcare-associated infections; community-associated infections
Over 90 capsular serotypes of Streptococcus pneumoniae, a common nasopharyngeal colonizer and major cause of pneumonia, bacteremia, and meningitis, are known. It is unclear why some serotypes can persist at all: they are more easily cleared from carriage and compete poorly in vivo. Serotype-specific immune responses, which could promote diversity in principle, are weak enough to allow repeated colonizations by the same type. Here we show that weak serotype-specific immunity and an acquired response not specific to the capsule can together reproduce observed diversity. Serotype-specific immunity stabilizes competition, and acquired immunity to noncapsular antigens reduces fitness differences. Our model can be used to explain the effects of pneumococcal vaccination and indicates general factors that regulate the diversity of pathogens.
During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic (pH1N1), morbidity and mortality sparing was observed among the elderly population; it was hypothesized that this age group benefited from immunity to pH1N1 due to cross-reactive antibodies generated from prior infection with antigenically similar influenza viruses. Evidence from serologic studies and genetic similarities between pH1N1 and historical influenza viruses suggest that the incidence of pH1N1 cases should drop markedly in age cohorts born prior to the disappearance of H1N1 in 1957, namely those at least 52–53 years old in 2009, but the precise range of ages affected has not been delineated.
Methods and Findings
To test for any age-associated discontinuities in pH1N1 incidence, we aggregated laboratory-confirmed pH1N1 case data from 8 jurisdictions in 7 countries, stratified by single year of age, sex (when available), and hospitalization status. Using single year of age population denominators, we generated smoothed curves of the weighted risk ratio of pH1N1 incidence, and looked for sharp drops at varying age bandwidths, defined as a significantly negative second derivative. Analyses stratified by hospitalization status and sex were used to test alternative explanations for observed discontinuities. We found that the risk of laboratory-confirmed infection with pH1N1 declines with age, but that there was a statistically significant leveling off or increase in risk from about 45 to 50 years of age, after which a sharp drop in risk occurs until the late fifties. This trend was more pronounced in hospitalized cases and in women and was independent of the choice in smoothing parameters. The age range at which the decline in risk accelerates corresponds to the cohort born between 1951–1959 (hospitalized) and 1953–1960 (not hospitalized).
The reduced incidence of pH1N1 disease in older individuals shows a detailed age-specific pattern consistent with protection conferred by exposure to influenza A/H1N1 viruses circulating before 1957.
An independent reanalysis of 11 randomized clinical trials shows that oseltamivir treatment reduces the risk of lower respiratory tract complications requiring antibiotic treatment by 28% overall (95% confidence interval [CI], 11%–42%) and by 37% among patients with confirmed influenza infections (95% CI, 18%–52%).