The role of human movement in the transmission of vector-borne pathogens

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Background: Human movement is a key behavioral factor in many vector-borne disease systems because it influences exposure to vectors and thus the transmission of pathogens. Human movement transcends spatial and temporal scales with different influences on disease dynamics. Here we develop a conceptual model to evaluate the importance of variation in exposure due to individual human movements for pathogen transmission, focusing on mosquito-borne dengue virus. Methodology and Principal Findings: We develop a model showing that the relevance of human movement at a particular scale depends on vector behavior. Focusing on the day-biting Aedes aegypti, we illustrate how vector biting behavior combined with fine-scale movements of individual humans engaged in their regular daily routine can influence transmission. Using a simple example, we estimate a transmission rate (R0) of 1.3 when exposure is assumed to occur only in the home versus 3.75 when exposure at multiple locations - e.g., market, friend's - due to movement is considered. Movement also influences for which sites and individuals risk is greatest. For the example considered, intriguingly, our model predicts little correspondence between vector abundance in a site and estimated R0 for that site when movement is considered. This illustrates the importance of human movement for understanding and predicting the dynamics of a disease like dengue. To encourage investigation of human movement and disease, we review methods currently available to study human movement and, based on our experience studying dengue in Peru, discuss several important questions to address when designing a study. Conclusions/Significance: Human movement is a critical, understudied behavioral component underlying the transmission dynamics of many vector-borne pathogens. Understanding movement will facilitate identification of key individuals and sites in the transmission of pathogens such as dengue, which then may provide targets for surveillance, intervention, and improved disease prevention.




Stoddard, S. T., Morrison, A. C., Vazquez-Prokopec, G. M., Soldan, V. P., Kochel, T. J., Kitron, U., … Scott, T. W. (2009). The role of human movement in the transmission of vector-borne pathogens. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 3(7).

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