How host heterogeneity governs tuberculosis reinfection?

M. Gabriela M. Gomes*, Ricardo Águas, João S. Lopes, Marta C. Nunes, Carlota Rebelo, Paula Rodrigues, Claudio J. Struchiner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Recurrent episodes of tuberculosis (TB) can be due to relapse of latent infection or exogenous reinfection, and discrimination is crucial for control planning. Molecular genotyping of Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates offers concrete opportunities to measure the relative contribution of reinfection in recurrent disease. Here, a mathematical model of TB transmission is fitted to data from 14 molecular epidemiology studies, enabling the estimation of relevant epidemiological parameters. Meta-analysis reveals that rates of reinfection after successful treatment are higher than rates of new TB, raising an important question about the underlying mechanism. We formulate two alternative mechanisms within our model framework: (i) infection increases susceptibility to reinfection or (ii) infection affects individuals differentially, thereby recruiting high-risk individuals to the group at risk for reinfection. The second mechanism is better supported by the fittings to the data, suggesting that reinfection rates are inflated through a population phenomenon that occurs in the presence of heterogeneity in individual risk of infection. As a result, rates of reinfection are higher when measured at the population level even though they might be lower at the individual level. Finally, differential host recruitment is modulated by transmission intensity, being less pronounced when incidence is high.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2473-2478
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1737
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Partial immunity
  • Reinfection
  • Transmission dynamics
  • Tuberculosis epidemiology


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