[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The basic reproduction number of a pathogen, R0, determines whether a pathogen will spread (R0>1), when introduced into a fully susceptible population or fade out (R0<1), because infected hosts do not, on average, replace themselves. In this paper we develop a simple mechanistic model for the basic reproduction number for a group of tick-borne pathogens that wholly, or almost wholly, depend on horizontal transmission to and from vertebrate hosts. This group includes the causative agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, and the causative agent of human babesiosis, Babesia microti, for which transmission between co-feeding ticks and vertical transmission from adult female ticks are both negligible. The model has only 19 parameters, all of which have a clear biological interpretation and can be estimated from laboratory or field data. The model takes into account the transmission efficiency from the vertebrate host as a function of the days since infection, in part because of the potential for this dynamic to interact with tick phenology, which is also included in the model. This sets the model apart from previous, similar models for R0 for tick-borne pathogens. We then define parameter ranges for the 19 parameters using estimates from the literature, as well as laboratory and field data, and perform a global sensitivity analysis of the model. This enables us to rank the importance of the parameters in terms of their contribution to the observed variation in R0. We conclude that the transmission efficiency from the vertebrate host to Ixodes scapularis ticks, the survival rate of Ixodes scapularis from fed larva to feeding nymph, and the fraction of nymphs finding a competent host, are the most influential factors for R0. This contrasts with other vector borne pathogens where it is usually the abundance of the vector or host, or the vector-to-host ratio, that determine conditions for emergence. These results are a step towards a better understanding of the geographical expansion of currently emerging horizontally-transmitted tick-borne pathogens such as Babesia microti, as well as providing a firmer scientific basis for targeted use of acaricide or the application of wildlife vaccines that are currently in development.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The American dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis (Say) (Acari: Ixodidae), has been implicated as a potential bridging vector to humans of Francisella tularensis, the etiological agent of tularemia. Since the initial studies evaluating vector competency of D. variabilis were conducted, F. tularensis has been subdivided into subspecies and clades that differ in their geographical distribution in the United States and in the severity of infections caused in humans. Here, we demonstrate that D. variabilis nymphs efficiently acquire, transtadially maintain, and transmit each of the strains tested (clades A1b and A2, and type B). Transmission efficiency by adult females was similarly high among infection groups and ranged from 58% for type B to 89% for A2 infections. In addition, we demonstrated that transmission can occur shortly after tick attachment. These findings support the concept that D. variabilis adults may play a significant role in epizootic transmission of F. tularensis, and as a bridging vector to humans.
Journal of Medical Entomology 07/2011; 48(4):884-90. DOI:10.1603/ME11005 · 1.82 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Peridomestic exposure to Borrelia burgdorferi-infected Ixodes scapularis nymphs is considered the dominant means of infection with black-legged tick-borne pathogens in the eastern United States. Population level studies have detected a positive association between the density of infected nymphs and Lyme disease incidence. At a finer spatial scale within endemic communities, studies have focused on individual level risk behaviors, without accounting for differences in peridomestic nymphal density. This study simultaneously assessed the influence of peridomestic tick exposure risk and human behavior risk factors for Lyme disease infection on Block Island, Rhode Island. Tick exposure risk on Block Island properties was estimated using remotely sensed landscape metrics that strongly correlated with tick density at the individual property level. Behavioral risk factors and Lyme disease serology were assessed using a longitudinal serosurvey study. Significant factors associated with Lyme disease positive serology included one or more self-reported previous Lyme disease episodes, wearing protective clothing during outdoor activities, the average number of hours spent daily in tick habitat, the subject's age and the density of shrub edges on the subject's property. The best fit multivariate model included previous Lyme diagnoses and age. The strength of this association with previous Lyme disease suggests that the same sector of the population tends to be repeatedly infected. The second best multivariate model included a combination of environmental and behavioral factors, namely hours spent in vegetation, subject's age, shrub edge density (increase risk) and wearing protective clothing (decrease risk). Our findings highlight the importance of concurrent evaluation of both environmental and behavioral factors to design interventions to reduce the risk of tick-borne infections.
PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(1):e84758. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0084758 · 3.53 Impact Factor
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