Modelling heterogeneity in host susceptibility to tuberculosis and its effect on public health interventions

PLoS One. 2018 Nov 14;13(11):e0206603. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0206603. eCollection 2018.


A tuberculosis (TB) model that accounts for heterogeneity in host susceptibility to tuberculosis is proposed, with the aim of investigating the implications this may have for the effectiveness of public health interventions. The model examines the possibility that recovered individuals treated from active TB and individuals treated with preventive therapy acquire different levels of immunity. This contrasts with recent studies that assume the two cohorts acquire the same level of immunity, and therefore both groups are reinfected at the same rate. The analysis presented here examines the impact of this assumption when designing intervention strategies. Comparison of reinfection rates between cohorts treated with preventive therapy and recovered individuals who were previously treated for active TB provides important epidemiological insights. It is found that the reinfection rate of the cohort treated with preventive therapy is the one that plays the key role in qualitative changes in TB dynamics. By contrast, the reinfection rate of recovered individuals (previously treated from active TB) plays a minor role. Moreover, the study shows that preventive treatment of individuals during early latency is always beneficial regardless of the level of susceptibility to reinfection. Further, if patients have greater immunity following treatment for late latent infection, then treatment is again beneficial. However, if susceptibility increases following treatment for late latent infection, the effect of treatment depends on the epidemiological setting. That is: (i) in (very) low burden settings, the effect on reactivation predominates and the burden declines with treatment; (ii) in moderate to high burden settings the effect of reinfection predominates and burden increases with treatment. The effect is most dominant between the two reinfection thresholds, RT2 and RT1, respectively associated with individuals being treated with preventive therapy and individuals with untreated late latent TB infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Disease Susceptibility* / epidemiology
  • Disease Susceptibility* / immunology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Public Health
  • Tuberculosis / epidemiology*
  • Tuberculosis / immunology
  • Tuberculosis / prevention & control
  • Tuberculosis / therapy*

Grants and funding

James Trauer is a recipient of an Early Career Fellowship from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, APP1142638 Lewi Stone is a recipient of an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant DP170102303. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.