Epidemiological consequences of a pathogen having both virulent and avirulent modes of transmission: The case of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus

P. J. White, R. A. Norman, P. J. Hudson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A number of pathogens cause chronic infection in survivors of acute disease and this is believed to be a common means of persistence, including for highly virulent agents. We present a model in which transmission from chronically infected hosts causes chronic infection in naive individuals, without causing acute disease - indeed 'protecting' against it. Thus the pathogen obtains the benefit of virulence (high transmission rate), but mitigates against the cost (high host mortality). Recent findings suggest that rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), a highly contagious and virulent pathogen, may also utilize this alternative, 'avirulent', mode of transmission. The model may resolve the paradox of how RHDV can be highly prevalent in some populations, in the absence of mortality. Differences in host demography determine whether avirulent transmission prevents large-scale mortality (as in most UK populations) or not. Other pathogens may exhibit similar behaviour and the implications for emerging diseases in general are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)665-677
Number of pages13
JournalEpidemiology and Infection
Volume129
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2002

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Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus
Acute Disease
Mortality
Infection
Population
Virulence
Survivors
Demography
Costs and Cost Analysis

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Epidemiology
  • Infectious Diseases

Cite this

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Epidemiological consequences of a pathogen having both virulent and avirulent modes of transmission : The case of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus. / White, P. J.; Norman, R. A.; Hudson, P. J.

In: Epidemiology and Infection, Vol. 129, No. 3, 01.12.2002, p. 665-677.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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AB - A number of pathogens cause chronic infection in survivors of acute disease and this is believed to be a common means of persistence, including for highly virulent agents. We present a model in which transmission from chronically infected hosts causes chronic infection in naive individuals, without causing acute disease - indeed 'protecting' against it. Thus the pathogen obtains the benefit of virulence (high transmission rate), but mitigates against the cost (high host mortality). Recent findings suggest that rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV), a highly contagious and virulent pathogen, may also utilize this alternative, 'avirulent', mode of transmission. The model may resolve the paradox of how RHDV can be highly prevalent in some populations, in the absence of mortality. Differences in host demography determine whether avirulent transmission prevents large-scale mortality (as in most UK populations) or not. Other pathogens may exhibit similar behaviour and the implications for emerging diseases in general are discussed.

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