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Modeling schistosomiasis transmission: the importance of snail population structure

Abstract Background Schistosomiasis is a neglected tropical disease endemic in 54 countries. A major Schistosoma species, Schistosoma mansoni, is sustained via a life cycle that includes both human and snail hosts. Mathematical models of S. mansoni transmission, used to elucidate the complexities of the transmission cycle and estimate the impact of intervention efforts, often focus primarily on the human host. However, S. mansoni incurs physiological costs in snails that vary with the age of the snail when first infected. Snail demography and the age of snail infection could thus affect the force of infection experienced by humans, which is frequently used to predict the impact of various control strategies. Methods To address how these snail host and parasite interactions influence model predictions, we developed deterministic models of schistosomiasis transmission that include varying complexity in the snail population age structure. Specifically, we examined how model outputs, such as schistosome prevalence in human and snail populations, respond to the inclusion of snail age structure. Results Our models suggest that snail population age structure modifies the force of infection experienced by humans and the relationship between snail infection prevalence and corresponding human infection prevalence. There are significant differences in estimated snail infection, cercarial density and mean worm burden between models without snail population dynamics and those with snail populations, and between models with a homogeneous snail population and those with age stratification. The variation between finely age-stratified snail populations and those grouped into only juvenile and adult life stages is, however, minimal. Conclusions These results indicate that including snails and snail age structure in a schistosomiasis transmission model alters the relationship between snail and human infection prevalence. This highlights the importance of accounting for a heterogeneous intermediate host population in models of schistosomiasis transmission where the impact of proposed control measures is being considered.

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Journal Article
Anderson LC
Loker ES
Wearing HJ
Year of Publication
Parasites & Vectors
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