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The effects of social structure and sex-biased transmission on macroparasite infection

Perkins, Sarah E. ORCID:, Ferrari, M. F. and Hudson, P. J. 2008. The effects of social structure and sex-biased transmission on macroparasite infection. Parasitology 135 (13) , pp. 1561-1569. 10.1017/S0031182008000449

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Mathematical models of disease dynamics tend to assume that individuals within a population mix at random and so transmission is random, and yet, in reality social structure creates heterogeneous contact patterns. We investigated the effect of heterogeneity in host contact patterns on potential macroparasite transmission by first quantifying the level of assortativity in a socially structured wild rodent population (Apodemus flavicollis) with respect to the directly-transmitted macroparasitic helminth, Heligmosomoides polygyrus. We found the population to be disassortatively mixed (i.e. male mice mixing with female mice more often than same sex mixing) at a constant level over time. The macroparasite H. polygyrus has previously been shown to exhibit male-biased transmission so we used a Susceptible-Infected (SI) mathematical model to simulate the effect of increasing strengths of male-biased transmission on the prevalence of the macroparasite using empirically-derived transmission networks. When transmission was equal between the sexes the model predicted macroparasite prevalence to be 73% and infection was male biased (82% of infection in the male mice). With a male-bias in transmission ten times that of the females, the expected macroparasite prevalence was 50% and was equally prevalent in both sexes, results that both most closely resembled empirical dynamics. As such, disassortative mixing alone did not produce macroparasite dynamics analogous to those from empirical observations; a strong male-bias in transmission was also required. We discuss the relevance of our results in the context of network models for transmission dynamics and control.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Subjects: Q Science > Q Science (General)
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Q Science > QL Zoology
Uncontrolled Keywords: social networks; assortative mixing; Heligmosomoides polygyrus; Apodemus flavicollis; macroparasite transmission; helminths; sex-biased transmission
Additional Information: Online publication September 25 2008. Pdf uploaded in accordance with publisher's policy at (accessed 24/02/2014).
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 0031-1820
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 23 May 2023 19:48

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