Modeling rotavirus strain dynamics in developed countries to understand the potential impact of vaccination on genotype distributions.


Understanding how immunity shapes the dynamics of multistrain pathogens is essential in determining the selective pressures imposed by vaccines. There is currently much interest in elucidating the strain dynamics of rotavirus to determine whether vaccination may lead to the replacement of vaccine-type strains. In developed countries, G1P[8] strains constitute the majority of rotavirus infections most years, but occasionally other genotypes dominate for reasons that are not well understood. We developed a mathematical model to examine the interaction of five common rotavirus genotypes. We explored a range of estimates for the relative strength of homotypic vs. heterotypic immunity and compared model predictions against observed genotype patterns from six countries. We then incorporated vaccination in the model to examine its impact on rotavirus incidence and the distribution of strains. Our model can explain the coexistence and cyclical pattern in the distribution of genotypes observed in most developed countries. The predicted frequency of cycling depends on the relative strength of homotypic vs. heterotypic immunity. Vaccination that provides strong protection against G1 and weaker protection against other strains will likely lead to an increase in the relative prevalence of non-G1 strains, whereas a vaccine that provides equally strong immunity against all strains may promote the continued predominance of G1. Overall, however, disease incidence is expected to be substantially reduced under both scenarios and remain below prevaccination levels despite the possible emergence of new strains. Better understanding of homotypic vs. heterotypic immunity, both natural and vaccine-induced, will be critical in predicting the impact of vaccination.

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