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Host mobility drives pathogen competition in spatially structured populations.

Abstract

Interactions among multiple infectious agents are increasingly recognized as a fundamental issue in the understanding of key questions in public health regarding pathogen emergence, maintenance, and evolution. The full description of host-multipathogen systems is, however, challenged by the multiplicity of factors affecting the interaction dynamics and the resulting competition that may occur at different scales, from the within-host scale to the spatial structure and mobility of the host population. Here we study the dynamics of two competing pathogens in a structured host population and assess the impact of the mobility pattern of hosts on the pathogen competition. We model the spatial structure of the host population in terms of a metapopulation network and focus on two strains imported locally in the system and having the same transmission potential but different infectious periods. We find different scenarios leading to competitive success of either one of the strain or to the codominance of both strains in the system. The dominance of the strain characterized by the shorter or longer infectious period depends exclusively on the structure of the population and on the the mobility of hosts across patches. The proposed modeling framework allows the integration of other relevant epidemiological, environmental and demographic factors, opening the path to further mathematical and computational studies of the dynamics of multipathogen systems.

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