Model approaches for estimating the influence of time-varying socio-environmental factors on macroparasite transmission in two endemic regions.


The environmental determinants of vector- and host-borne diseases include time-varying components that modify key transmission parameters, resulting in transient couplings between environmental phenomena and transmission processes. While some time-varying drivers are periodic in nature, some are aperiodic, such as those that involve episodic events or complex patterns of human behavior. Understanding these couplings can allow for prediction of periods of peak infection risk, and ultimately presents opportunities for optimizing intervention selection and timing. Schistosome macroparasites of humans exhibit multiple free-living stages as well as intermediate hosts, and are thus model organisms for illustrating the influence of environmental forcing on transmission. Time-varying environmental factors, termed gating functions, for schistosomes include larval response to temperature and rainfall, seasonal water contact patterns and snail population dynamics driven by weather variables. The biological bases for these modifiers are reviewed, and their values are estimated and incorporated into a transmission model that simulates a multi-year period in two schistosomiasis endemic regions. Modeling results combined with a scale dependent correlation analysis indicate the end effect of these site-specific gating functions is to strongly govern worm burden in these communities, in a manner particularly sensitive to the hydrological differences between sites. Two classes of gating functions were identified, those that act in concert to modify human infection (and determine worm acquisition late in the season), and those that act on snail infection (and determine early season worm acquisition). The importance of these factors for control programs and surveillance is discussed.

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