Lorenzo Mari, Manuela Ciddio, Renato Casagrandi, Javier Perez-Saez, Enrico Bertuzzo, Andrea Rinaldo, Susanne H. Sokolow, Giulio A. De Leo, Marino Gatto
Simple models of disease propagation often disregard the effects of transmission heterogeneity on the ecological and epidemiological dynamics associated with host-parasite interactions. However, for some diseases like schistosomiasis, a widespread parasitic infection caused by Schistosoma worms, accounting for heterogeneity is crucial to both characterize long-term dynamics and evaluate opportunities for disease control. Elaborating on the classic Macdonald model for macroparasite transmission, we analyze families of models including explicit descriptions of heterogeneity related to differential transmission risk within a community, water contact patterns, the distribution of the snail host population, human mobility, and the seasonal fluctuations of the environment. Through simple numerical examples, we show that heterogeneous multigroup communities may be more prone to schistosomiasis than homogeneous ones, that the availability of multiple water sources can hinder parasite transmission, and that both spatial and temporal heterogeneities may have nontrivial implications for disease endemicity. Finally, we discuss the implications of heterogeneity for disease control. Although focused on schistosomiasis, results from this study may apply as well to other parasitic infections with complex transmission cycles, such as cysticercosis, dracunculiasis and fasciolosis.