Discipline: Computer Sciences and Information Management
Michael Umelo - North Carolina A&T
Co-Author(s): Suzanne O'Regan
The role of the environment in the transmission of pathogens has been an understudied research area. For this research paper, we look specifically at Hendra virus and how it spreads through the environment. Hendra virus is a zoonotic infection that is transmitted by flying foxes (bats) through their excretions and it can be lethal if it comes into contact with horses and humans. The key reservoir host of Hendra virus is Pteropus Alecto (black flying fox). Increased stress on black flying foxes due to loss of habitat can potentially increase their susceptibility to the virus, increase shedding of the virus into the environment and increase the rate of relapse. The dynamics of the virus in black flying foxes is unclear, but is hypothesized to follow Susceptible-Exposed-Infectious-Recovered-Susceptible dynamics (SEIRS) or Susceptible-Exposed-Infectious-Exposed-Infectious dynamics (SEIEI). We explore SEIR and SEI models to determine the interactions between host susceptibility, shedding, relapse and environmental persistence, and how these factors affect the risk of transmission to horses. Using these models, we calculate equilibrium prevalence in bats and the basic reproduction number as measures of transmission risk to horses. Our results suggest that when bats are allowed to recover, Hendra virus prevalence and risk of spread is lower. Alarmingly, our models indicate that Hendra virus has the potential to drive the recipient horse host to extinction, regardless of the form of transmission dynamics in the bat reservoir host. Future work will explore the applicability of these results to other environmentally transmitted pathogens that can spill over from reservoirs to susceptible host species.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): NSF,NSA, NCAT
Faculty Advisor: Suzanne O'Regan, email@example.com
Role: Coded the models and analysis for those models using R programming language; Wrote the paper, poster, and presentation