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Proc Biol Sci. 1999 Oct 7;266(1432):1939-45.

Transmission dynamics of a zoonotic pathogen within and between wildlife host species.

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Centre for Comparative Infectious Diseases, School of Biological Sciences, University of Liverpool, UK.


The transmission dynamics of the cowpox virus infection have been quantified in two mixed populations of bank voles (Clethrionomys glareolus) and wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus), through analyses of detailed time-series of the numbers of susceptible, infectious and newly infected individuals. The cowpox virus is a zoonosis which circulates in these rodent hosts and has been shown to have an adverse effect on reproductive output. The transmission dynamics within species is best described as frequency dependent rather than density dependent, contrary to the 'mass action' assumption of most previous studies, both theoretical and empirical. Estimation of a transmission coefficient for each species in each population also allows annual and seasonal variations in transmission dynamics to be investigated through an analysis of regression residuals. Transmission between host species is found to be negligible despite their close cohabitation. The consequences of this for the combining ability of hosts as zoonotic reservoirs, and for apparent competition between hosts, are discussed.

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