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Temperature modulates dengue virus epidemic growth rates through its effects on reproduction numbers and generation intervals.

Abstract

Epidemic growth rate, r, provides a more complete description of the potential for epidemics than the more commonly studied basic reproduction number, R0, yet the former has never been described as a function of temperature for dengue virus or other pathogens with temperature-sensitive transmission. The need to understand the drivers of epidemics of these pathogens is acute, with arthropod-borne virus epidemics becoming increasingly problematic. We addressed this need by developing temperature-dependent descriptions of the two components of r-R0 and the generation interval-to obtain a temperature-dependent description of r. Our results show that the generation interval is highly sensitive to temperature, decreasing twofold between 25 and 35°C and suggesting that dengue virus epidemics may accelerate as temperatures increase, not only because of more infections per generation but also because of faster generations. Under the empirical temperature relationships that we considered, we found that r peaked at a temperature threshold that was robust to uncertainty in model parameters that do not depend on temperature. Although the precise value of this temperature threshold could be refined following future studies of empirical temperature relationships, the framework we present for identifying such temperature thresholds offers a new way to classify regions in which dengue virus epidemic intensity could either increase or decrease under future climate change.

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