Trickle or clumped infection process? A stochastic model for the infection process of the parasitic roundworm of humans, Ascaris lumbricoides

Walker, Martin, Hall, Andrew and Basáñez, María-Gloria (2010) Trickle or clumped infection process? A stochastic model for the infection process of the parasitic roundworm of humans, Ascaris lumbricoides. International Journal for Parasitology, 40 (12). pp. 1381-1388. ISSN 0020-7519

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The importance of the mode of acquisition of infectious stages of directly-transmitted parasitic helminths has been acknowledged in population dynamics models; hosts may acquire eggs/larvae singly in a “trickle” type manner or in “clumps”. Such models have shown that the mode of acquisition influences the distribution and dynamics of parasite loads, the stability of host-parasite systems and the rate of emergence of anthelmintic resistance, yet very few field studies have allowed these questions to be explored with empirical data. We have analysed individual worm weight data for the parasitic roundworm of humans, Ascaris lumbricoides, collected from a three-round chemo-expulsion study in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with the aim of discerning whether a trickle or a clumped infection process predominates. We found that hosts tend to harbour female worms of a similar weight, indicative of a clumped infection process, but acknowledged that unmeasured host heterogeneities (random effects) could not be completely excluded as a cause. Here, we complement our previous statistical analyses using a stochastic infection model to simulate sizes of individual A. lumbricoides infecting a population of humans. We use the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) as a quantitative measure of similarity among simulated worm sizes and explore the behaviour of this statistic under assumptions corresponding to trickle or clumped infections and unmeasured host heterogeneities. We confirm that both mechanisms are capable of generating aggregates of similar-sized worms, but that the particular pattern of ICCs described pre- and post-anthelmintic treatment in the data is more consistent with aggregation generated by clumped infections than by host heterogeneities alone. This provides support to the notion that worms may be acquired in clumps. We discuss our results in terms of the population biology of A. lumbricoides and highlight the significance of our modelling approach for the study of the population dynamics of helminth parasites.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: University of Westminster > Science and Technology > Life Sciences, School of (No longer in use)
Depositing User: Miss Nina Watts
Date Deposited: 30 Sep 2010 15:46
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2010 15:46

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