Resolving the Enigma of Iquitos and Manaus: A Modeling Analysis of Multiple COVID-19 Epidemic Waves in Two Amazonian Cities

Daihai He, Lixin Lin, Yael Artzy-Randrup, Haydar Demirhan, Benjamin J. Cowling, Lewi Stone

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The two nearby Amazonian cities of Iquitos and Manaus endured explosive COVID-19 epidemics and may well have suffered the world’s highest infection and death rates over 2020, the first year of the pandemic. State-of-the-art epidemiological and modeling studies estimated that the populations of both cities came close to attaining herd immunity (>70% infected) at the termination of the first wave and were thus protected. This makes it difficult to explain the more deadly second wave of COVID-19 that struck again in Manaus just months later, simultaneous with the appearance of a new P.1 variant of concern, creating a catastrophe for the unprepared population. It was suggested that the second wave was driven by reinfections, but the episode has become controversial and an enigma in the history of the pandemic. We present a data-driven model of epidemic dynamics in Iquitos, which we also use to explain and model events in Manaus. By reverse engineering the multiple epidemic waves over 2 y in these two cities, the partially observed Markov process model inferred that the first wave left Manaus with a highly susceptible and vulnerable population (≈40% infected) open to invasion by P.1, in contrast to Iquitos (≈72% infected). The model reconstructed the full epidemic outbreak dynamics from mortality data by fitting a flexible time-varying reproductive number R0(t)while estimating reinfection and impulsive immune evasion. The approach is currently highly relevant given the lack of tools available to assess these factors as new SARS-CoV-2 virus variants appear with different degrees of immune evasion.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2211422120
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2023


  • epidemic
  • fitting data
  • model
  • pandemic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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