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Explaining the age pattern of immunity to seasonal influenza

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The age pattern of immunity to seasonal influenza is striking but little understood. In contrast to many infections, the proportion of the population seropositive peaks in school age children, reaches a minimum between ages 35-65, and then rises again in older age groups. Heterogeneous mixing between age classes can have a profound effect on disease dynamics, and is hence the obvious candidate explanation for this pattern. However, using a mathematical model of multiple influenza strains, age dependent transmission based on mixing data from social contact surveys cannot on its own explain the observed data. Instead, seroprevalence may be a consequence of ‘original antigenic sin’; if the first infection of a lifetime dominates subsequent immune responses, it is possible to reproduce the relationship between age and immunity.

This talk is part of the Worms and Bugs series.

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