United States Geological Survey
Early theoretical work on disease invasion typically assumed large and well-mixed host populations. Many human and wildlife systems, however, have small groups with limited movement among groups. In these situations, the basic reproductive number, R0, is likely to be a poor predictor of a disease pandemic because it typically does not account for group structure and movement of individuals among groups. We extend recent work by combining the movement of hosts, transmission within groups, recovery from infection and the recruitment of new susceptibles into a stochastic model of disease in a host metapopulation. We focus on how recruitment of susceptibles affects disease invasion and how population structure can affect the frequency of superspreading events (SSEs). We show that the frequency of SSEs may decrease with the reduced movement and the group sizes due to the limited number of susceptible individuals available. Classification tree analysis of the model results illustrates the hierarchical nature of disease invasion in host metapopulations. First, the pathogen must effectively transmit within a group (R0>1), and then the pathogen must persist within a group long enough to allow for movement among the groups. Therefore, the factors affecting disease persistence--such as infectious period, group size and recruitment of new susceptibles--are as important as the local transmission rates in predicting the spread of pathogens across a metapopulation.