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1.  When should a trophically and vertically transmitted parasite manipulate its intermediate host? The case of Toxoplasma gondii 
Parasites with complex life cycles are expected to manipulate the behaviour of their intermediate hosts (IHs), which increase their predation rate and facilitate the transmission to definitive hosts (DHs). This ability, however, is a double-edged sword when the parasite can also be transmitted vertically in the IH. In this situation, as the manipulation of the IH behaviour increases the IH death rate, it conflicts with vertical transmission, which requires healthy and reproducing IHs. The protozoan Toxoplasma gondii, a widespread pathogen, combines both trophic and vertical transmission strategies. Is parasite manipulation of host behaviour still adaptive in this situation? We model the evolution of the IH manipulation by T. gondii to study the conflict between these two routes of transmission under different epidemiological situations. Model outputs show that manipulation is particularly advantageous for virulent strains and in epidemic situations, and that different levels of manipulation may evolve depending on the sex of the IH and the transmission routes considered. These results may help to understand the variability of strain characteristics encountered for T. gondii and may extend to other trophically transmitted parasites.
PMCID: PMC3712452  PMID: 23825211
trophic transmission; behavioural manipulation; vertical transmission; adaptive dynamics; population genetics approach; virulence
2.  How Much Can Diptera-Borne Viruses Persist over Unfavourable Seasons? 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e74213.
Diptera are vectors of major human and animal pathogens worldwide, such as dengue, West-Nile or bluetongue viruses. In seasonal environments, vector-borne disease occurrence varies with the seasonal variations of vector abundance. We aimed at understanding how diptera-borne viruses can persist for years under seasonal climates while vectors overwinter, which should stop pathogen transmission during winter. Modeling is a relevant integrative approach for investigating the large panel of persistence mechanisms evidenced through experimental and observational studies on specific biological systems. Inter-seasonal persistence of virus may occur in hosts due to viremia duration, chronic infection, or vertical transmission, in vector resistance stages, and due to a low continuous transmission in winter. Using a generic stochastic modeling framework, we determine the parameter ranges under which virus persistence could occur via these different mechanisms. The parameter ranges vary according to the host demographic regime: for a high host population turnover, persistence increases with the mechanism parameter, whereas for a low turnover, persistence is maximal for an optimal range of parameter. Persistence in hosts due to long viremia duration in a few hosts or due to vertical transmission is an effective strategy for the virus to overwinter. Unexpectedly, a low continuous transmission during winter does not give rise to certain persistence, persistence barely occurring for a low turnover of the susceptible population. We propose a generic framework adaptable to most diptera-borne diseases. This framework allows ones to assess the plausibility of each persistence mechanism in real epidemiological situations and to compare the range of parameter values theoretically allowing persistence with the range of values determined experimentally.
PMCID: PMC3762737  PMID: 24023929
3.  Seasonal and spatial heterogeneities in host and vector abundances impact the spatiotemporal spread of bluetongue 
Veterinary Research  2013;44(1):44.
Bluetongue (BT) can cause severe livestock losses and large direct and indirect costs for farmers. To propose targeted control strategies as alternative to massive vaccination, there is a need to better understand how BT virus spread in space and time according to local characteristics of host and vector populations. Our objective was to assess, using a modelling approach, how spatiotemporal heterogeneities in abundance and distribution of hosts and vectors impact the occurrence and amplitude of local and regional BT epidemics. We built a reaction–diffusion model accounting for the seasonality in vector abundance and the active dispersal of vectors. Because of the scale chosen, and movement restrictions imposed during epidemics, host movements and wind-induced passive vector movements were neglected. Four levels of complexity were addressed using a theoretical approach, from a homogeneous to a heterogeneous environment in abundance and distribution of hosts and vectors. These scenarios were illustrated using data on abundance and distribution of hosts and vectors in a real geographical area. We have shown that local epidemics can occur earlier and be larger in scale far from the primary case rather than close to it. Moreover, spatial heterogeneities in hosts and vectors delay the epidemic peak and decrease the infection prevalence. The results obtained on a real area confirmed those obtained on a theoretical domain. Although developed to represent BTV spatiotemporal spread, our model can be used to study other vector-borne diseases of animals with a local to regional spread by vector diffusion.
PMCID: PMC3701505  PMID: 23782421
4.  A Generic Model to Simulate Air-Borne Diseases as a Function of Crop Architecture 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49406.
In a context of pesticide use reduction, alternatives to chemical-based crop protection strategies are needed to control diseases. Crop and plant architectures can be viewed as levers to control disease outbreaks by affecting microclimate within the canopy or pathogen transmission between plants. Modeling and simulation is a key approach to help analyze the behaviour of such systems where direct observations are difficult and tedious. Modeling permits the joining of concepts from ecophysiology and epidemiology to define structures and functions generic enough to describe a wide range of epidemiological dynamics. Additionally, this conception should minimize computing time by both limiting the complexity and setting an efficient software implementation. In this paper, our aim was to present a model that suited these constraints so it could first be used as a research and teaching tool to promote discussions about epidemic management in cropping systems. The system was modelled as a combination of individual hosts (population of plants or organs) and infectious agents (pathogens) whose contacts are restricted through a network of connections. The system dynamics were described at an individual scale. Additional attention was given to the identification of generic properties of host-pathogen systems to widen the model's applicability domain. Two specific pathosystems with contrasted crop architectures were considered: ascochyta blight on pea (homogeneously layered canopy) and potato late blight (lattice of individualized plants). The model behavior was assessed by simulation and sensitivity analysis and these results were discussed against the model ability to discriminate between the defined types of epidemics. Crop traits related to disease avoidance resulting in a low exposure, a slow dispersal or a de-synchronization of plant and pathogen cycles were shown to strongly impact the disease severity at the crop scale.
PMCID: PMC3511473  PMID: 23226209
5.  Switching from a mechanistic model to a continuous model to study at different scales the effect of vine growth on the dynamic of a powdery mildew epidemic 
Annals of Botany  2010;107(5):885-895.
Background and Aims
Epidemiological simulation models coupling plant growth with the dispersal and disease dynamics of an airborne plant pathogen were devised for a better understanding of host–pathogen dynamic interactions and of the capacity of grapevine development to modify the progress of powdery mildew epidemics.
The first model is a complex discrete mechanistic model (M-model) that explicitly incorporates the dynamics of host growth and the development and dispersion of the pathogen at the vine stock scale. The second model is a simpler ordinary differential equations (ODEs) compartmental SEIRT model (C-model) handling host growth (foliar surface) and the ontogenic resistance of the leaves. With the M-model various levels of vine development are simulated under three contrasting climatic scenarios and the relationship between host and disease variables are examined at key periods in the epidemic process. The ability of the C-model to retrieve the main dynamics of the disease for a range of vine growth given by the M-model is investigated.
Key Results
The M-model strengthens experimental results observed regarding the effect of the rate of leaf emergence and of the number of leaves at flowering on the severity of the disease. However, it also underlines strong variations of the dynamics of disease depending on the vigour and indirectly on the climatic scenarios. The C-model could be calibrated by using the M-model provided that different parameters before and after shoot topping and for various vigour levels and inoculation time are used. Biologically relevant estimations of the parameters that could be used for its extension to the vineyard scale are obtained.
The M-model is able to generate a wide range of growth scenarios with a strong impact on disease evolution. The C-model is a promising tool to be used at a larger scale.
PMCID: PMC3077982  PMID: 21127356
Host–pathogen models; mechanistic model; SEIRT model; host growth; powdery mildew; grapevine

Results 1-5 (5)