Virulence-mediated infectiousness and activity trade-offs and their impact on transmission potential of influenza patients.


Communicable diseases are often virulent, i.e. they cause morbidity symptoms in those infected. While some symptoms may be transmission-enhancing, other symptoms are likely to reduce transmission potential. For human diseases, the reduction in transmission opportunities is commonly caused by reduced activity. There is limited data regarding the potential impact of virulence on transmission potential. We performed an exploratory data analysis of 324 influenza patients at a university health centre during the 2016/2017 influenza season. We classified symptoms as infectiousness-related or morbidity-related and calculated two scores. The scores were used to explore the relationship between infectiousness, morbidity (virulence), and activity level. We found a decrease in the activity level with increasing morbidity scores. There was no consistent pattern between an activity level and an infectiousness score. We also found a positive correlation between morbidity and infectiousness scores. Overall, we find that increasing virulence leads to increased infectiousness and reduced activity, suggesting a trade-off that can impact overall transmission potential. Our findings indicate that a reduction of systemic symptoms may increase host activity without reducing infectiousness. Therefore, interventions should target both systemic- and infectiousness-related symptoms to reduce overall transmission potential. Our findings can also inform simulation models that investigate the impact of different interventions on transmission.

MIDAS Network Members