When resolution does matter: Modelling indirect contacts in dairy farms at different levels of detail

Autoři: Alba Bernini aff001;  Luca Bolzoni aff002;  Renato Casagrandi aff001
Působiště autorů: Dipartimento di Elettronica, Informazione e Bioingegneria, Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy aff001;  Risk Analysis and Genomic Epidemiology Unit, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Lombardia e dell’Emilia Romagna, Parma, Italy aff002
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(10)
Kategorie: Research Article
doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0223652


Animal exchanges are considered the major pathway for between-farm transmission of many livestock infectious diseases. Yet, vehicles and operators visiting several farms during routine activities can also contribute to disease spread. Indeed, if contaminated, they can act as mechanical vectors of fomites, generating indirect contacts between visited farms. While data on animal exchanges is often available in national databases, information about the daily itineraries of trucks and operators is rare because difficult to obtain. Thus, some unavoidable approximations have been frequently introduced in the description of indirect contacts in epidemic models. Here, we showed that the level of detail in such description can significantly affect the predictions on disease dynamics. Our analyses focused on the potential spread of a disease in a dairy farm system subject of a comprehensive data collection campaign on calf transportations. We developed two temporal multilayer networks to model between-farm contacts generated by either animal exchanges (direct contacts) and connections operated by trucks moving calves (indirect contacts). The complete model used the full knowledge of the daily trucks’ itineraries, while the partial informed one used only a subset of such available information. To account for various conditions of pathogen survival ability and effectiveness of cleaning operations, we performed a sensitivity analysis on trucks’ contamination period. An accurate description of indirect contacts was crucial both to correctly predict the final size of epidemics and to identify the seed farms responsible for generating the most severe outbreaks. The importance of detailed information emerged even more clearly in the case of short contamination periods. Our conclusions could be extended to between-farm contacts generated by other vehicles and operators. Overcoming these information gaps would be decisive for a deeper understanding of epidemic spread in livestock and to develop effective control plans.

Klíčová slova:

Farms – Infectious disease control – Livestock – Pathogens – Transportation – Veterinary diseases – Infectious disease epidemiology – Veterinary epidemiology


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