Traveling waves in a model of influenza A drift

Juan Lin, Viggo Andreasen, Renato Casagrandi, Simon Asher Levin

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70 Scopus citations


Between major pandemics, the influenza A virus changes its antigenic properties by accumulating point mutations (drift) mainly in the RNA genes that code for the surface proteins hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA). The successful strain (variant) that will cause the next epidemic is selected from a reduced number of progenies that possess relatively high transmissibility and the ability to escape from the immune surveillance of the host. In this paper, we analyse a one-dimensional model of influenza A drift (Z. Angew. Math. Mech. 76 (2) (1996) 421) that generalizes the classical SIR model by including mutation as a diffusion process in a phenotype space of variants. The model exhibits traveling wave solutions with an asymptotic wave speed that matches well those obtained from numerical simulations. As exact solutions for these waves are not available, asymptotic estimates for the amplitudes of infected and recovered classes are provided through an exponential approximation based on the smallness of the diffusion constant. Through this approximation, we find simple scaling properties to several parameters of relevance to the epidemiology of the disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)437-445
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 21 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Applied Mathematics


  • Cross-immunity
  • Influenza A drift
  • Mutation
  • Traveling wave


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