How, when and where a pathogen is transmitted between two individuals in a population is crucial in understanding and predicting how a disease will spread and a new model seeks to lay the foundation for new zoonotic disease spread thinking
By outlining a predictive model of a spatial epidemic spread in a population of territorial animals and quantifying the instances of transmission events, the research team determined the propagation speed of a pathogen using parameters based on the knowledge of the demography of a species, the way animals wander and the degree of contagiousness of the disease.
A large percentage of new and reemerging human infectious diseases are of animal origin, so models that track how pathogens hop from one animal host to another will help develop more effective control measures that are capable of identifying specific individuals or class of individuals rather than ineffective and costly widespread culling procedures of an entire population.
Bovine tuberculosis (Tb) in badgers, which affects cattle, the farming industry and has become a political issue, is an example of how the model could be used. Badgers are territorial animals and do transmit the infection by passing the bacterial pathogen to individuals in neighboring territories, which is what the researchers have quantified in their model.
Dr. Luca Giuggioli of the University of Bristol said, "The research findings have the potential to be applicable to various populations of territorial animals worldwide including in the UK bovine Tb in badgers, which has enormous economic implications for the cattle industry."
Published in Physical Review Letters