Host switching vs. host sharing in overlapping sylvatic Trypanosoma cruzi transmission cycles
Kribs, Christopher M.
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The principle of competitive exclusion is well established for multiple populations competing for the same resource, and simple models for multistrain infection exhibit it as well when cross-immunity precludes coinfections. However, multiple hosts provide niches for different pathogens to occupy simultaneously. This is the case for the vector-borne parasite Trypanosoma cruzi in overlapping sylvatic transmission cycles in the Americas, where it is enzootic. This study uses cycles in the USA involving two different hosts but the same vector species as a context for the study of the mechanisms behind the communication between the two cycles. Vectors dispersing in search of new hosts may be considered to move between the two cycles (host switching) or, more simply, to divide their time between the two host types (host sharing). Analysis considers host switching as an intermediate case between isolated cycles and intermingled cycles (host sharing) in order to examine the role played by the host-switching rate in permitting coexistence of multiple strains in a single-host population. Results show that although the population dynamics (demographic equilibria) in host-switching models align well with those in the limiting models (host sharing or isolated cycles), infection dynamics differ significantly, in ways that sometimes illuminate the underlying epidemiology (such as differing host susceptibilities to infection) and sometimes reveal model limitations (such as host switching dominating the infection dynamics). Numerical work suggests that the model explains the trace presence of TcI in raccoons but not the more significant co-persistence observed in woodrats.