Modeling the overdispersion of parasite loads.
ABSTRACT Many epidemic models lead to an approximately Poisson distribution of parasites among hosts. This is at variance with observation, where heavy overdispersion is the rule. A simple model is proposed that, while treating individuals alike, nonetheless gives rise to highly variable parasite loads.
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ABSTRACT: Host-parasite systems provide powerful opportunities for the study of spatial and stochastic effects in ecology; this has been particularly so for directly transmitted microparasites. Here, we construct a fully stochastic model of the population dynamics of a macroparasite system: trichostrongylid gastrointestinal nematode parasites of farmed ruminants. The model subsumes two implicit spatial effects: the host population size (the spatial extent of the interaction between hosts) and spatial heterogeneity ('clumping') in the infection process. This enables us to investigate the roles of several different processes in generating aggregated parasite distributions. The necessity for female worms to find a mate in order to reproduce leads to an Allee effect, which interacts nonlinearly with the stochastic population dynamics and leads to the counter-intuitive result that, when rare, epidemics can be more likely and more severe in small host populations. Clumping in the infection process reduces the strength of this Allee effect, but can hamper the spread of an epidemic by making infection events too rare. Heterogeneity in the hosts' response to infection has to be included in the model to generate aggregation at the level observed empirically.Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 07/2004; 271(1545):1243-50. · 5.41 Impact Factor
Article: Livestock Helminths in a Changing Climate: Approaches and Restrictions to Meaningful Predictions[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: Parasitic helminths represent one of the most pervasive challenges to livestock, and their intensity and distribution will be influenced by climate change. There is a need for long-term predictions to identify potential risks and highlight opportunities for control. We explore the approaches to modelling future helminth risk to livestock under climate change. One of the limitations to model creation is the lack of purpose driven data collection. We also conclude that models need to include a broad view of the livestock system to generate meaningful predictions. Abstract: Climate change is a driving force for livestock parasite risk. This is especially true for helminths including the nematodes Haemonchus contortus, Teladorsagia circumcincta, Nematodirus battus, and the trematode Fasciola hepatica, since survival and development of free-living stages is chiefly affected by temperature and moisture. The paucity of long term predictions of helminth risk under climate change has driven us to explore optimal modelling approaches and identify current bottlenecks to generating meaningful predictions. We classify approaches as correlative or mechanistic, exploring their strengths and limitations. Climate is one aspect of a complex system and, at the farm level, husbandry has a dominant influence on helminth transmission. Continuing 94 environmental change will necessitate the adoption of mitigation and adaptation strategies in husbandry. Long term predictive models need to have the architecture to incorporate these changes. Ultimately, an optimal modelling approach is likely to combine mechanistic processes and physiological thresholds with correlative bioclimatic modelling, incorporating changes in livestock husbandry and disease control. Irrespective of approach, the principal limitation to parasite predictions is the availability of active surveillance data and empirical data on physiological responses to climate variables. By combining improved empirical data and refined models with a broad view of the livestock system, robust projections of helminth risk can be developed.Animals. 03/2012; 2:93-107.