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Parazitologiia. 2002 Jan-Feb;36(1):48-59.

[The parasite capacity of the host population].

[Article in Russian]


The estimation of parasitic pressure on the host populations is frequently required in parasitological investigations. The empirical values of prevalence of infection are used for this, however the latter one as an estimation of parasitic pressure on the host population is insufficient. For example, the same prevalence of infection can be insignificant for the population with high reproductive potential and excessive for the population with the low reproductive potential. Therefore the development of methods of an estimation of the parasitic pressure on the population, which take into account the features the host population, is necessary. Appropriate parameters are to be independent on view of the researcher, have a clear biological sense and be based on easily available characteristics. The methods of estimation of parasitic pressure on the host at the organism level are based on various individual viability parameters: longevity, resistance to difficult environment etc. The natural development of this approach for population level is the analysis of viability parameters of groups, namely, the changing of extinction probability of host population under the influence of parasites. Obviously, some critical values of prevalence of infection should exist; above theme the host population dies out. Therefore the heaviest prevalence of infection, at which the probability of host population size decreases during the some period is less than probability of that increases or preserves, can serve as an indicator of permissible parasitic pressure on the host population. For its designation the term "parasite capacity of the host population" is proposed. The real parasitic pressure on the host population should be estimated on the comparison with its parasite capacity. Parasite capacity of the host population is the heaviest possible prevalence of infection, at which, with the generation number T approaching infinity, there exists at least one initial population size ni(0) for which the probability of size decrease through T generations is less than the probability of its increase. [formula: see text] The estimation of the probabilities of host population size changes is necessary for the parasite capacity determination. The classical methods for the estimation of extinction probability of population are unsuitable in this case, as these methods require the knowledge of population growth rates and their variances for all possible population sizes. Thus, the development methods of estimate of extinction probability of population, based on the using of available parameters (sex ratio, fecundity, mortality, prevalence of infection PI) is necessary. The population size change can be considered as the Markov process. The probabilities of all changes of population size for a generation in this case are described by a matrix of transition probabilities of Markov process (pi) with dimensions Nmax x Nmax (maximum population size). The probabilities of all possible size changes for T generations can be calculated as pi T. Analyzing the behaviour matrix of transition at various prevalence of infection, it is possible to determine the parasite capacity of the host population. In constructing of the matrix of transition probabilities, should to be taken into account the features the host population and the influence of parasites on its reproductive potential. The set of the possible population size at a generation corresponds to each initial population size. The transition probabilities for the possible population sizes at a generation can be approximated to the binomial distribution. The possible population sizes at a generation nj(t + 1) can be calculated as sums of the number of survived parents N1 and posterities N2; their probabilities--as P(N1) x P(N2). The probabilities of equal sums N1 + N2 and nj(t + 1) > or = Nmax are added. The number of survived parents N1 may range from 0 to (1-PI) x ni(t). The survival probabilities can be estimated for each N1 as [formula: see text] The number of survived posterities N2 may range from 0 to N2max (the maximum number of posterities). N2max is [formula: see text] and the survival probabilities for each N2, is defined as [formula: see text] where [formula: see text], ni(t) is the initial population size (including of males and infected specimens of host), PI is the prevalence of infection, Q1 is the survival probabilities of parents, Pfemales is the frequency of females in the host population, K is the number of posterities per a female, and Q2 is the survival probabilities of posterities. When constructing matrix of transition probabilities of Markov process (pi), the procedure outlined above should be repeated for all possible initial population size. Matrix of transition probabilities for T generations is defined as pi T. This matrix (pi T) embodies all possible transition probabilities from the initial population sizes to the final population sizes and contains a wealth of information by itself. From the practical point of view, however, the plots of the probability of population size decrease are more suitable for analysis. They can be received by summing the probabilities within of lines of matrix from 0 to ni--1 (ni--the population size, which corresponds to the line of the matrix). Offered parameter has the number of advantages. Firstly, it is independent on a view of researcher. Secondly, it has a clear biological sense--this is a limit of prevalence, which is safe for host population. Thirdly, only available parameters are used in the calculation of parasite capacity: population size, sex ratio, fecundity, mortality. Lastly, with the availability of modern computers calculations do not make large labour. Drawbacks of this parameter: 1. The assumption that prevalence of infection, mortality, fecundity and sex ratio are constant in time (the situations are possible when the variability of this parameters can not be neglected); 2. The term "maximum population size" has no clear biological sense; 3. Objective restrictions exist for applications of this mathematical approach for populations with size, which exceeds 1000 specimens (huge quantity of computing operations--order Nmax 3*(T-1), work with very low probabilities). The further evolution of the proposed approach will allow to transfer from the probabilities of size changes of individual populations to be probabilities of size changes of population systems under the influence of parasites. This approach can be used at the epidemiology and in the conservation biology.

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