Quantifying direct and indirect contacts for the potential transmission of infection between species using a multilayer contact network

Silk, M J and Drewe, J A and Delahay, R J and Weber, N and Steward, L C and Wilson-Aggarwal, J and Boots, M and Hodgson, D J and Croft, D P and McDonald, R A (2018) Quantifying direct and indirect contacts for the potential transmission of infection between species using a multilayer contact network. Behaviour, 155 (7-9).

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Abstract

Detecting opportunities for between-species transmission of pathogens can be challenging, particularly if rare behaviours or environmental transmission are involved. We present a multilayer network framework to quantify transmission potential in multi-host systems, incorporating environmental transmission, by using empirical data on direct and indirect contacts between European badgers Meles meles and domestic cattle. We identify that indirect contacts via the environment at badger latrines on pasture are likely to be important for transmission within badger populations and between badgers and cattle. We also find a positive correlation between the role of individual badgers within the badger social network, and their role in the overall badger-cattle-environment network, suggesting that the same behavioural traits contribute to the role of individual badgers in within- and between-species transmission. These findings have implications for disease management interventions in this system, and our novel network approach can provide general insights into transmission in other multi-host disease systems.