Interacting contagions: The Critical role of cooperativity

Dr. Fakhteh Ghanbarnejad (Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems)
Monday, 95/02/20 (May 9, 2016), 15:30

The spreading of contagions can exhibit a percolation transition, which separates transitory prevalence from outbreaks that reach a finite fraction of the population. Such transitions are commonly believed to be continuous, but empirical studies have shown more violent spreading modes when the participating agents are not limited to one type. Striking examples include the coepidemic of the Spanish flu and pneumonia that occurred in 1918, and, more recently, the concurrent prevalence of HIV/AIDS and a host of diseases. It remains unclear to what extent an outbreak in the presence of interacting pathogens differs from that due to an ordinary singleagent process. Here we study a mechanistic model for understanding contagion processes involving interagent cooperation. Our stochastic simulations reveal the possible emergence of a massive avalanchelike outbreak right at the threshold, which is manifested as a discontinuous phase transition. Such an abrupt change arises only if the underlying network topology supports a bottleneck for cascaded mutual infections. Surprisingly, all these discontinuous transitions are accompanied by nontrivial critical behaviours, presenting a rare case of hybrid transition. The findings may imply the origin of catastrophic occurrences in many realistic systems, from coepidemics to financial contagions.