Exploring the effect of human and animal population growth on vector-borne disease transmission with an agent-based model of Rhodesian human African trypanosomiasis in eastern province, Zambia

by Simon Alderton, Ewan T. Macleod, Neil E. Anderson, Noreen Machila, Martin Simuunza, Susan C. Welburn, Peter M. Atkinson

This paper presents the development of an agent-based model (ABM) to investigate Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense human African trypanosomiasis (rHAT) disease transmission. The ABM model, fitted at a fine spatial scale, was used to explore the impact of a growing host population on the spread of disease along a 75 km transect in the Luangwa Valley, Zambia. The model was used to gain a greater understanding of how increases in human and domestic animal population could impact the contact network between vector and host, the subsequent transmission patterns, and disease incidence outcomes in the region. Modelled incidence rates showed increases in rHAT transmission in both humans and cattle. The primary demographic attribution of infection switched dramatically from young children of both sexes attending school, to adult women performing activities with shorter but more frequent trips, such as water and firewood collection, with men more protected due to the presence of cattle in their routines. The interpretation of model output provides a plausible insight into both population development and disease transmission in the near future in the region and such techniques could aid well-targeted mitigation strategies in the future.

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