Antiviral resistance and the control of pandemic influenza: the roles of stochasticity, evolution and model details.


Antiviral drugs, most notably the neuraminidase inhibitors, are an important component of control strategies aimed to prevent or limit any future influenza pandemic. The potential large-scale use of antiviral drugs brings with it the danger of drug resistance evolution. A number of recent studies have shown that the emergence of drug-resistant influenza could undermine the usefulness of antiviral drugs for the control of an epidemic or pandemic outbreak. While these studies have provided important insights, the inherently stochastic nature of resistance generation and spread, as well as the potential for ongoing evolution of the resistant strain have not been fully addressed. Here, we study a stochastic model of drug resistance emergence and consecutive evolution of the resistant strain in response to antiviral control during an influenza pandemic. We find that taking into consideration the ongoing evolution of the resistant strain does not increase the probability of resistance emergence; however, it increases the total number of infecteds if a resistant outbreak occurs. Our study further shows that taking stochasticity into account leads to results that can differ from deterministic models. Specifically, we find that rapid and strong control cannot only contain a drug sensitive outbreak, it can also prevent a resistant outbreak from occurring. We find that the best control strategy is early intervention heavily based on prophylaxis at a level that leads to outbreak containment. If containment is not possible, mitigation works best at intermediate levels of antiviral control. Finally, we show that the results are not very sensitive to the way resistance generation is modeled.

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