Dynamics and management of infectious disease in colonizing populations

Shirli Bar-David, James O. Lloyd-Smith, Wayne M. Getz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The introduction of chronic, infectious diseases by colonizing populations (invasive or reintroduced) is a serious hazard in conservation biology, threatening the original host and other spillover species. Most research on spatial invasion of diseases has pertained to established host populations, either at steady state or fluctuating through time. Within a colonizing population, however, the spread of disease may be influenced by the expansion process of the population itself. Here we explore the simultaneous expansion of a colonizing population and a chronic, nonlethal disease introduced with it, describing basic patterns in homogeneous and structured landscapes and discussing implications for disease management. We describe expected outcomes of such introductions for three qualitatively distinct cases, depending on the relative velocities at which the population and epidemic expand. (1) If transmissibility is low the disease cannot be sustained, although it may first expand its range somewhat around the point of introduction. (2) If transmissibility is moderate but the wavefront velocity for the population, vp, is higher than that for the disease, vd, the disease wave front lags behind that of the population. (3) A highly transmissible disease, with vd > vp, will invade sufficiently rapidly to track the spread of the host. To test these elementary theoretical predictions, we simulated disease outbreaks in a spatially structured host population occupying a real landscape. We used a spatially explicit, individual-based model of Persian fallow deer (Dama mesopotamica) reintroduced in northern Israel, considering a hypothetical introduction of bovine tuberculosis. Basic patterns of disease expansion in this realistic setting were similar to our conceptual predictions for homogeneous landscapes. Landscape heterogeneity, however, induced the establishment of population activity centers and disease foci within them, leading to jagged wave fronts and causing local variation in the relative velocities at which the population and epidemic expanded. Based on predictions from simple theory and simulations of managed outbreaks, we suggest that the relative velocities at which the population and epidemic expand have important implications for the impact of different management strategies. Recognizing which of our three general cases best describes a particular outbreak will aid in planning an efficient strategy to contain the disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1215-1224
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Bovine tuberculosis
  • Chronic disease
  • Colonizing populations
  • Dama mesopotamica
  • Infectious disease
  • Invasive species
  • Israel
  • Managed disease outbreak
  • Persian fallow deer
  • Population expansion
  • Reintroduction
  • Spatially explicit model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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