The effects of host diversity on vector-borne disease: The conditions under which diversity will amplify or dilute the disease risk

Ezer Miller, Amit Huppert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Multihost vector-borne infectious diseases form a significant fraction of the global infectious disease burden. In this study we explore the relationship between host diversity, vector behavior, and disease risk. To this end, we have developed a new dynamic model which includes two distinct host species and one vector species with variable preferences. With the aid of the model we were able to compute the basic reproductive rate, R0, a well-established measure of disease risk that serves as a threshold parameter for disease outbreak. The model analysis reveals that the system has two different qualitative behaviors: (i) the well-known dilution effect, where the maximal R0 is obtained in a community which consists a single host (ii) a new amplification effect, denoted by us as diversity amplification, where the maximal R0 is attained in a community which consists both hosts. The model analysis extends on previous results by underlining the mechanism of both, diversity amplification and the dilution, and specifies the exact conditions for their occurrence. We have found that diversity amplification occurs where the vector prefers the host with the highest transmission ability, and dilution is obtained when the vector does not show any preference, or it prefers to bite the host with the lower transmission ability. The mechanisms of dilution and diversity amplification are able to account for the different and contradictory patterns often observed in nature (i.e., in some cases disease risk is increased while in other is decreased when the diversity is increased). Implication of the diversity amplification mechanism also challenges current premises about the interaction between biodiversity, climate change, and disease risk and calls for retrospective thinking in planning intervention policies aimed at protecting the preferred host species.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere80279
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume8
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - 26 Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes

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