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Proc Biol Sci. 2016 Jun 15;283(1832). pii: 20160834. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2016.0834.

Invasion of two tick-borne diseases across New England: harnessing human surveillance data to capture underlying ecological invasion processes.

Author information

1
Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Yale School of Public Health, 60 College Street, New Haven, CT 06520, USA katharine.walter@yale.edu.
2
United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, National Wildlife Research Center, 4101 LaPorte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO 80521, USA Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.
3
Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA Department of Biology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA.
4
Department of Biological Sciences, Old Dominion University, 302a Mills Godwin Building, Norfolk, VA 23529, USA.
5
Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Yale School of Public Health, 60 College Street, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.
6
Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Yale School of Public Health, 60 College Street, New Haven, CT 06520, USA Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.
7
Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, Yale School of Public Health, 60 College Street, New Haven, CT 06520, USA Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University, 1200 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10027, USA.

Abstract

Modelling the spatial spread of vector-borne zoonotic pathogens maintained in enzootic transmission cycles remains a major challenge. The best available spatio-temporal data on pathogen spread often take the form of human disease surveillance data. By applying a classic ecological approach-occupancy modelling-to an epidemiological question of disease spread, we used surveillance data to examine the latent ecological invasion of tick-borne pathogens. Over the last half-century, previously undescribed tick-borne pathogens including the agents of Lyme disease and human babesiosis have rapidly spread across the northeast United States. Despite their epidemiological importance, the mechanisms of tick-borne pathogen invasion and drivers underlying the distinct invasion trajectories of the co-vectored pathogens remain unresolved. Our approach allowed us to estimate the unobserved ecological processes underlying pathogen spread while accounting for imperfect detection of human cases. Our model predicts that tick-borne diseases spread in a diffusion-like manner with occasional long-distance dispersal and that babesiosis spread exhibits strong dependence on Lyme disease.

KEYWORDS:

Lyme disease; babesiosis; invasion; occupancy model; tick-borne disease

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