Co-infections, heterogeneity and behaviour: models and real rodents.

Most epidemiological models for infections target a single pathogen, but in reality hosts are commonly infected by more than one pathogen. Moreover, many models assume random or even homogeneous mixing of individuals within defined categories and do not account for heterogeneity of host characteristics or behavioural changes as a consequence of infection. In this project, we will address these questions with an African rodent population as a model system. Using a vast set of existing capture-mark recapture data of multimammate mice Mastomys natalensis in Tanzania, with over 9,000 blood samples collected during monthly captures since 2007 and still ongoing, we will be able to investigate co-infections with several pathogens, describe positive and negative associations between these pathogens and carry out a longitudinal study on the dynamics of the transmission of these pathogens. Using experiments both in the lab and in large field enclosure (0.5 ha) we will collect data about the mutual interactions of the pathogens at the transmission level, and the effects of (co-)infections on contact rates and behavior (and vice versa), taking heterogeneity into account. These data and insights will be the basis for the development of mathematical models that take these issues into account.

This project is funded by FWO and runs 2020-2023, in collaboration with scientists from Sokoine University of Agriculture Pest Management Center, Morogoro, Tanzania.

For more information contact Herwig Leirs.