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A mathematical modelling framework for linked within-host and between-host dynamics for infections with free-living pathogens in the environment.

Abstract

In this study we develop a mathematical modelling framework for linking the within-host and between-host dynamics of infections with free-living pathogens in the environment. The resulting linked models are sometimes called immuno-epidemiological models. However, there is still no generalised framework for linking the within-host and between-host dynamics of infectious diseases. Furthermore, for infections with free-living pathogens in the environment, there is an additional stumbling block in that there is a gap in knowledge on how environmental factors (through water, air, soil, food, fomites, etc.) alter many aspects of such infections including susceptibility to infective dose, persistence of infection, pathogen shedding and severity of the disease. In this work, we link the two subsystems (within-host and between-host models) by identifying the within-host and between-host variables and parameters associated with the environmental dynamics of the pathogen and then design a feedback of the variables and parameters across the within-host and between-host models using human schistosomiasis as a case study. We study the mathematical properties of the linked model and show that the model is epidemiologically well-posed. Using results from the analysis of the endemic equilibrium expression, the disease reproductive number R0, and numerical simulations of the full model, we adequately account for the reciprocal influence of the linked within-host and between-host models. In particular, we illustrate that for human schistosomiasis, the outcome of infection at the individual level determines if, when and how much the individual host will further transmit the infectious agent into the environment, eventually affecting the spread of the infection in the host population. We expect the conceptual modelling framework developed here to be applicable to many infectious disease with free-living pathogens in the environment beyond the specific disease system of human schistosomiasis considered here.

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