To refine the accuracy of model predictions, we modified an earlier version of the SWB by incorporating factors representing essential in-host biology (parasite mating, aggregation, density-dependent fecundity, and random egg-release) into demographically structured host communities. We also revised the snail component of the transmission model to reflect a saturable form of human-to-snail transmission. The new model allowed us to realistically simulate overdispersed egg-test results observed in individual-level field data. We further developed a Bayesian-type calibration methodology that accounted for model and data uncertainties.
The new version of the SWB model provides a better tool to predict the outcomes of ongoing schistosomiasis control programs. It reflects parasite features that augment and perpetuate transmission, while it also readily incorporates differences in diagnostic testing and human sub-population differences in treatment coverage. Once extended to other Schistosoma species and transmission environments, it will provide a useful and efficient tool for planning control and elimination strategies.
Schistosoma parasites sustain a complex transmission process that cycles between a definitive human host, two free-swimming larval stages, and an intermediate snail host. Multiple factors modify their transmission and affect their control, including heterogeneity in host populations and environment, the aggregated distribution of human worm burdens, and features of parasite reproduction and host snail biology. Because these factors serve to enhance local transmission, their inclusion is important in attempting accurate quantitative prediction of the outcomes of schistosomiasis control programs. However, their inclusion raises many mathematical and computational challenges. To address these, we have recently developed a tractable stratified worm burden (SWB) model that occupies an intermediate place between simpler deterministic mean worm burden models and the very computationally-intensive, autonomous agent models.
The new model methodology was applied to multi-year, individual-level field data on S. haematobium infections in coastal Kenya. We successfully derived age-specific estimates of worm burden distributions and worm fecundity and crowding functions for children and adults. Estimates from the new SWB model were compared with those from the older, simpler SWB with some substantial differences noted. We validated our new SWB estimates in prediction of drug treatment-based control outcomes for a typical Kenyan community.