Development of a mathematical model for mechanical transmission of trypanosomes and other pathogens of cattle transmitted by tabanids

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Mechanical transmission of pathogens by biting insects is a non-specific phenomenon in which pathogens are transmitted from the blood of an infected host to another host during interrupted feeding of the insects. A large range of pathogens can be mechanically transmitted, e.g. hemoparasites, bacteria and viruses. Some pathogens are almost exclusively mechanically transmitted, while others are also cyclically transmitted. For agents transmitted both cyclically and mechanically (mixed transmission), such as certain African pathogenic trypanosomes, the relative impact of mechanical versus cyclical transmission is essentially unknown. We have developed a mathematical model of pathogen transmission by a defined insect population to evaluate the importance of mechanical transmission. Based on a series of experiments aimed at demonstrating mechanical transmission of African trypanosomes by tabanids, the main parameters of the model were either quantified (host parasitaemia, mean individual insect burden, initial prevalence of infection) or estimated (unknown parameters). This model allows us to simulate the evolution of pathogen prevalence under various predictive circumstances, including control measures and could be used to assess the risk of mechanical transmission under field conditions. If adjustments of parameters are provided, this model could be generalized to other pathogenic agents present in the blood of their hosts (Bovine Leukemia virus, Anaplasma, etc.) or other biting insects such as biting muscids (stomoxyines) and hippoboscids. © 2008 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc.

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International Journal for Parasitology

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