Latent coinfection and the maintenance of strain diversity.


Technologies for strain differentiation and typing have made it possible to detect genetic diversity of pathogens, both within individual hosts and within communities. Coinfection of a host by more than one pathogen strain may affect the relative frequency of these strains at the population level through complex within- and between-host interactions; in infectious diseases that have a long latent period, interstrain competition during latency is likely to play an important role in disease dynamics. We show that SEIR models that include a class of latently coinfected individuals can have markedly different long-term dynamics than models without coinfection, and that coinfection can greatly facilitate the stable coexistence of strains. We demonstrate these dynamics using a model relevant to tuberculosis in which people may experience latent coinfection with both drug sensitive and drug resistant strains. Using this model, we show that the existence of a latent coinfected state allows the possibility that disease control interventions that target latency may facilitate the emergence of drug resistance.

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