Network-based vaccination improves prospects for disease control in wild chimpanzees.


Many endangered wildlife populations are vulnerable to infectious diseases for which vaccines exist; yet, pragmatic considerations often preclude large-scale vaccination efforts. These barriers could be reduced by focusing on individuals with the highest contact rates. However, the question then becomes whether targeted vaccination is sufficient to prevent large outbreaks. To evaluate the efficacy of targeted wildlife vaccinations, we simulate pathogen transmission and control on monthly association networks informed by behavioural data from a wild chimpanzee community (Kanyawara N = 37, Kibale National Park, Uganda). Despite considerable variation across monthly networks, our simulations indicate that targeting the most connected individuals can prevent large outbreaks with up to 35% fewer vaccines than random vaccination. Transmission heterogeneities might be attributed to biological differences among individuals (e.g. sex, age, dominance and family size). Thus, we also evaluate the effectiveness of a trait-based vaccination strategy, as trait data are often easier to collect than interaction data. Our simulations indicate that a trait-based strategy can prevent large outbreaks with up to 18% fewer vaccines than random vaccination, demonstrating that individual traits can serve as effective estimates of connectivity. Overall, these results suggest that fine-scale behavioural data can help optimize pathogen control efforts for endangered wildlife.

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