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Modelling the outbreak of infectious disease following mutation from a non-transmissible strain

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journal contribution
posted on 26.11.2018 by C.Y. Chen, John Ward, W.B. Xie
In-host mutation of a cross-species infectious disease to a form that is transmissible between humans has resulted with devastating global pandemics in the past. We use simple mathematical models to describe this process with the aim to better understand the emergence of an epidemic resulting from such a mutation and the extent of measures that are needed to control it. The feared outbreak of a human–human transmissible form of avian influenza leading to a global epidemic is the paradigm for this study. We extend the SIR approach to derive a deterministic and a stochastic formulation to describe the evolution of two classes of susceptible and infected states and a removed state, leading to a system of ordinary differential equations and a stochastic equivalent based on a Markov process. For the deterministic model, the contrasting timescale of the mutation process and disease infectiousness is exploited in two limits using asymptotic analysis in order to determine, in terms of the model parameters, necessary conditions for an epidemic to take place and timescales for the onset of the epidemic, the size and duration of the epidemic and the maximum level of the infected individuals at one time. Furthermore, the basic reproduction number is determined from asymptotic analysis of a distinguished limit. Comparisons between the deterministic and stochastic model demonstrate that stochasticity has little effect on most aspects of an epidemic, but does have significant impact on its onset particularly for smaller populations and lower mutation rates for representatively large populations. The deterministic model is extended to investigate a range of quarantine and vaccination programmes, whereby in the two asymptotic limits analysed, quantitative estimates on the outcomes and effectiveness of these control measures are established.


CYC and JW would like to thank the Ministry of Science and Technology of Taiwan (MOST) for funding an academic visit to Taiwan. CYC would also like to thank MOST , Taiwan for the funding of the project (105-2115-M-390-003).



  • Science


  • Mathematical Sciences

Published in

Theoretical Population Biology


CHEN, C.Y., WARD, J.P. and XIE, W.B., 2018. Modelling the outbreak of infectious disease following mutation from a non-transmissible strain. Theoretical Population Biology, 126, pp.1-18.


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