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An alternative to killing? Treatment of reservoir hosts to control a vector and pathogen in a susceptible species

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 September 2012

The James Hutton Institute, Macaulay Drive, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK Computing Science and Mathematics, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK
Computing Science and Mathematics, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK
The James Hutton Institute, Macaulay Drive, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK
*Corresponding author: The James Hutton Institute, Macaulay Drive, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK. Tel: +44 (0)1224 395187. Fax: +44 (0) 844 928 5429.


Parasite-mediated apparent competition occurs when one species affects another through the action of a shared parasite. One way of controlling the parasite in the more susceptible host is to manage the reservoir host. Culling can cause issues in terms of ethics and biodiversity impacts, therefore we ask: can treating, as compared to culling, a wildlife host protect a target species from the shared parasite? We used Susceptible Infected Recovered (SIR) models parameterized for the tick-borne louping ill virus (LIV) system. Deer are the key hosts of the vector (Ixodes ricinus) that transmits LIV to red grouse Lagopus lagopus scoticus, causing high mortality. The model was run under scenarios of varying acaricide efficacy and deer densities. The model predicted that treating deer can increase grouse density through controlling ticks and LIV, if acaricide efficacies are high and deer densities low. Comparing deer treated with 70% acaricide efficacy with a 70% cull rate suggested that treatment may be more effective than culling if initial deer densities are high. Our results will help inform tick control policies, optimize the targeting of control methods and identify conditions where host management is most likely to succeed. Our approach is applicable to other host-vector-pathogen systems.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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