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  1. Abstract

    We consider the dynamics of a virus spreading through a population that produces a mutant strain with the ability to infect individuals that were infected with the established strain. Temporary cross-immunity is included using a time delay, but is found to be a harmless delay. We provide some sufficient conditions that guarantee local and global asymptotic stability of the disease-free equilibrium and the two boundary equilibria when the two strains outcompete one another. It is shown that, due to the immune evasion of the emerging strain, the reproduction number of the emerging strain must be significantly lower than that of the established strain for the local stability of the established-strain-only boundary equilibrium. To analyze the unique coexistence equilibrium we apply a quasi steady-state argument to reduce the full model to a two-dimensional one that exhibits a global asymptotically stable established-strain-only equilibrium or global asymptotically stable coexistence equilibrium. Our results indicate that the basic reproduction numbers of both strains govern the overall dynamics, but in nontrivial ways due to the inclusion of cross-immunity. The model is applied to study the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant in the presence of the Alpha variant using wastewater surveillance data from the Deer Island Treatment Plant in Massachusetts, USA.

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  2. We introduce a two-strain model with asymmetric temporary immunity periods and partial cross-immunity. We derive explicit conditions for competitive exclusion and coexistence of the strains depending on the strain-specific basic reproduction numbers, temporary immunity periods, and degree of cross-immunity. The results of our bifurcation analysis suggest that, even when two strains share similar basic reproduction numbers and other epidemiological parameters, a disparity in temporary immunity periods and partial or complete cross-immunity can provide a significant competitive advantage. To analyze the dynamics, we introduce a quasi-steady state reduced model which assumes the original strain remains at its endemic steady state. We completely analyze the resulting reduced planar hybrid switching system using linear stability analysis, planar phase-plane analysis, and the Bendixson-Dulac criterion. We validate both the full and reduced models with COVID-19 incidence data, focusing on the Delta (B.1.617.2), Omicron (B.1.1.529), and Kraken (XBB.1.5) variants. These numerical studies suggest that, while early novel strains of COVID-19 had a tendency toward dramatic takeovers and extinction of ancestral strains, more recent strains have the capacity for co-existence.

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