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J Theor Biol. 2012 Jan 21;293:15-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2011.10.006. Epub 2011 Oct 12.

An agent-based model for the transmission dynamics of Toxoplasma gondii.

Author information

1
Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Biomedical Engineering, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996-2030, United States.

Abstract

Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a unicellular protozoan that infects up to one-third of the world's human population. Numerous studies revealed that a latent infection of T. gondii can cause life-threatening encephalitis in immunocompromised people and also has significant effects on the behavior of healthy people and animals. However, the overall transmission of T. gondii has not been well understood although many factors affecting this process have been found out by different biologists separately. Here we synthesize what is currently known about the natural history of T. gondii by developing a prototype agent-based model to mimic the transmission process of T. gondii in a farm system. The present model takes into account the complete life cycle of T. gondii, which includes the transitions of the parasite from cats to environment through feces, from contaminated environment to mice through oocysts, from mice to cats through tissue cysts, from environment to cats through oocysts as well as the vertical transmission among mice. Although the current model does not explicitly include humans and other end-receivers, the effect of the transition to end-receivers is estimated by a developed infection risk index. The current model can also be extended to include human activities and thus be used to investigate the influences of human management on disease control. Simulation results reveal that most cats are infected through preying on infected mice while mice are infected through vertical transmission more often than through infection with oocysts, which clearly suggests the important role of mice during the transmission of T. gondii. Furthermore, our simulation results show that decreasing the number of mice on a farm can lead to the eradication of the disease and thus can lower the infection risk of other intermediate hosts on the farm. In addition, with the assumption that the relation between virulence and transmission satisfies a normal function, we show that intermediate virulent lineages (type II) can sustain the disease most efficiently, which can qualitatively agree with the fact that the evolution of the parasite favors intermediate virulence. The effects of other related factors on transmission, including the latent period and imprudent behavior of mice, and prevention strategies are also studied based on the present model.

PMID:
22004993
DOI:
10.1016/j.jtbi.2011.10.006
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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