Nonlinearities in transmission dynamics and efficient management of vector-borne pathogens

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Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an approach to minimizing economic and environmental harm caused by pests, and Integrated Vector Management (IVM) uses similar methods to minimize pathogen transmission by vectors. The risk of acquiring a vector-borne infection is often quantified using the density of infected vectors. The relationship between vector numbers and risk of human infection is more or less linear when both vector numbers and pathogen prevalence in vectors are low, but the relationship is nonlinear when vector density and/or infection prevalence are high. Therefore, the density of infected vectors often does not accurately predict risk of human exposure to pathogens, and traditional estimates of the percent control often overestimate the level of protection from infection resulting from management programs. We suggest a modified estimator, percent protection, which more accurately quantifies protection against human infection resulting from a management intervention. Cost-effectiveness of a management program is critical to protection of both public health and the environment, because the more efficiently available resources and funding are used, the fewer people get sick, and well-targeted efficient management programs minimize the need for poorly targeted, expensive environmental interventions (e.g., broadscale pesticide applications) that tend to damage nontarget organisms and natural systems. Design of an efficient, cost-effective IVM program requires knowledge of the cost-effectiveness functions (the effectiveness of control methods at lowering vector bites and/or infection prevalence with different levels of application) of the various control methods to be applied. Alternative programs can be designed that optimize percent protection by integrating different control methods at different levels of investment, and environmental effects of these alternatives can be compared, allowing environmental considerations to be included explicitly in the decision process. IPM, IVM, and Adaptive Management share the characteristic that management decisions must be made with incomplete knowledge of the functioning of natural systems or the efficacies of interventions. IVM surveillance programs that assess the effects of individual control methods and of combinations of control methods on the numbers of vector bites and on infection prevalence in vectors can increase knowledge of pathogen transmission dynamics and provide information to improve program effectiveness in subsequent applications.

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Ecological Applications