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Optimal control of rat-borne leptospirosis in an urban environment

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article number209
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>19/06/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Number of pages10
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Humans acquire leptospirosis through direct contact with animal reservoirs, or more commonly, contact with the environment contaminated with leptospires shed in animal urine. Reservoir populations can be difficult to control through rodenticide application, and resource reduction via habitat management is costly and logistically complicated to implement. When resources are limited, simulation of different combinations of control methods can inform their application in the field. Here we present a framework to find time-dependent control measures for rodent-borne leptospirosis using optimal control mathematical model theory. An age-structured model for leptospire infection in a Norway rat (Rattus norvegicus) population was developed, informed by empirical analyses of data from the city of Salvador, Brazil. We extended this model to include two temporary control measures, rodenticide, and resource reduction, and two permanent control measures, reducing rat carrying capacity and leptospire lifespan in the environment. Optimal control theory seeks the optimum time-dependent controls while taking into account both the cost of the control measures and the "cost" of infection. Multiple control scenarios and the predicted effect of the optimal controls on the population and infection dynamics are presented to illustrate the applications of combinations of temporary and permanent controls. Permanent controls lead to a reduction in prevalence of leptospiral carriage in the rodent population. However, temporary controls can also achieve a reduction in the number of infected rats low enough to reduce risk to humans. Although we focus our modeling on a well-studied species, the Norway rat, our approach can be applied to other disease systems with animal and environmental reservoirs to inform decisions to reduce the risk of human infection. © 2019 Minter, Costa, Khalil, Childs, Diggle, Ko and Begon.