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Genetic assignment methods for gaining insight into the management of infectious disease by understanding pathogen, vector, and host movement.

Abstract

For many pathogens with environmental stages, or those carried by vectors or intermediate hosts, disease transmission is strongly influenced by pathogen, host, and vector movements across complex landscapes, and thus quantitative measures of movement rate and direction can reveal new opportunities for disease management and intervention. Genetic assignment methods are a set of powerful statistical approaches useful for establishing population membership of individuals. Recent theoretical improvements allow these techniques to be used to cost-effectively estimate the magnitude and direction of key movements in infectious disease systems, revealing important ecological and environmental features that facilitate or limit transmission. Here, we review the theory, statistical framework, and molecular markers that underlie assignment methods, and we critically examine recent applications of assignment tests in infectious disease epidemiology. Research directions that capitalize on use of the techniques are discussed, focusing on key parameters needing study for improved understanding of patterns of disease.

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