The spread of fecally transmitted parasites in socially-structured populations

Journal Article

Mammals are infected by a wide array of gastrointestinal parasites, including parasites that also infect humans and domesticated animals. Many of these parasites are acquired through contact with infectious stages present in soil, feces or vegetation, suggesting that ranging behavior will have a major impact on their spread. We developed an individual-based spatial simulation model to investigate how range use intensity, home range overlap, and defecation rate impact the spread of fecally transmitted parasites in a population composed of social groups (i.e., a socially structured population). We also investigated the effects of epidemiological parameters involving host and parasite mortality rates, transmissibility, disease-related mortality, and group size. The model was spatially explicit and involved the spillover of a gastrointestinal parasite from a reservoir population along the edge of a simulated reserve, which was designed to mimic the introduction pathogens into protected areas. Animals ranged randomly within a "core" area, with biased movement toward the range center when outside the core. We systematically varied model parameters using a Latin hypercube sampling design. Analyses of simulation output revealed a strong positive association between range use intensity and the prevalence of infection. Moreover, the effects of range use intensity were similar in magnitude to effects of group size, mortality rates, and the per-contact probability of transmission. Defecation rate covaried positively with gastrointestinal parasite prevalence. Greater home range overlap had no positive effects on prevalence, with a smaller core resulting in less range overlap yet more intensive use of the home range and higher prevalence. Collectively, our results reveal that parasites with fecal-oral transmission spread effectively in socially structured populations. Future application should focus on parameterizing the model with empirically derived ranging behavior for different species or populations and data on transmission characteristics of different infectious organisms. © 2011 Nunn et al.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Nunn, CL; Thrall, PH; Leendertz, FH; Boesch, C

Published Date

  • 2011

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 6 / 6

PubMed ID

  • 21738763

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1932-6203

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1371/journal.pone.0021677