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Reprod Fertil Dev. 1997;9(1):51-60.

Modelling immunocontraception in disseminating systems.

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AgResearch, Canterbury Agriculture and Science Centre, Lincoln, New Zealand.


Vectored immunocontraception is a novel technology and simple models are described to help predict whether, and how, it might work. That is, given that an effective immunocontraceptive agent can be produced, and given that it can be inserted into a microparasitic or macroparasitic infective vector, would the vector persist and reach a high prevalence in the host and, if so, would it sterilize a sufficient proportion of the host breeding population to significantly reduce its density? Both conditions are necessary for success. The first question is an epidemiological one, relating solely to disseminating systems and differing according to whether the vector itself is newly introduced or pre-existing. If it is newly introduced, the assumption is that it is present in some other geographical areas occupied by the same target species, or is found in closely-related species. If the vector already exists in the population, the issue is one of competition between the engineered and wild-type vectors. The second question is an ecological one, common to both non-disseminating and disseminating systems. Whatever level of sterilization the immunocontraception provides must translate into a significant reduction in population density, having regard to the nature and extent of compensatory, density-dependence mechanisms in the population. These two questions, together with other more minor issues, are addressed in turn with particular reference to models for immunocontraception of brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) in New Zealand.

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