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Integrating the landscape epidemiology and genetics of RNA viruses: rabies in domestic dogs as a model

  • K. BRUNKER (a1), K. HAMPSON (a1), D. L. HORTON (a2) and R. BIEK (a1)

Landscape epidemiology and landscape genetics combine advances in molecular techniques, spatial analyses and epidemiological models to generate a more real-world understanding of infectious disease dynamics and provide powerful new tools for the study of RNA viruses. Using dog rabies as a model we have identified how key questions regarding viral spread and persistence can be addressed using a combination of these techniques. In contrast to wildlife rabies, investigations into the landscape epidemiology of domestic dog rabies requires more detailed assessment of the role of humans in disease spread, including the incorporation of anthropogenic landscape features, human movements and socio-cultural factors into spatial models. In particular, identifying and quantifying the influence of anthropogenic features on pathogen spread and measuring the permeability of dispersal barriers are important considerations for planning control strategies, and may differ according to cultural, social and geographical variation across countries or continents. Challenges for dog rabies research include the development of metapopulation models and transmission networks using genetic information to uncover potential source/sink dynamics and identify the main routes of viral dissemination. Information generated from a landscape genetics approach will facilitate spatially strategic control programmes that accommodate for heterogeneities in the landscape and therefore utilise resources in the most cost-effective way. This can include the efficient placement of vaccine barriers, surveillance points and adaptive management for large-scale control programmes.

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*Corresponding author: Kirstyn Brunker,
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