The impact of community organization on vector-borne pathogens

Benjamin Roche, Pejman Rohani, Andy P. Dobson, Jean François Guégan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Vector-borne zoonotic disease agents, which are known to often infect multiple species in the wild, have been identified as an emerging threat to human health. Understanding the ecology of these pathogens is especially timely, given the continued anthropogenic impacts on biodiversity. Here, we integrate empirical scaling laws from community ecology within a theoretical reservoir-vectorpathogen framework to study the transmission consequences of host community structure and diversity within large assemblages. We show that heterogeneity in susceptibility of the reservoir species promotes transmission "dilution," while a greater vector species richness "amplifies" it. These contrasting transmission impacts of vector and reservoir communities can yield very different epidemiological patterns. We demonstrate that vector and reservoir species richness can explain per se most of the pathogen transmission observed for West Nile virus in different parts of the United States, giving empirical support for the validity of these opposing theoretically predicted effects. We conclude that, in the context of disease emergence, the integration of a community perspective can provide critical insights into the understanding of pathogen transmission in wildlife.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Naturalist
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • Community ecology
  • Community epidemiology
  • Emerging vector-borne diseases
  • Mathematical modeling


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