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A Novel Statistical Model to Estimate Host Genetic Effects Affecting Disease Transmission

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http://www.genetics.org/content/201/3/871
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)871-884
JournalGenetics
Volume201
Issue number3
Early online date23 Sep 2015
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2015

Abstract

There is increasing recognition that genetic diversity can affect the spread of diseases, potentially impacting plant and livestock disease control as well as the emergence of human disease outbreaks. Nevertheless, even though computational tools can guide the control of infectious diseases, few epidemiological models can simultaneously accommodate the inherent individual heterogeneity in multiple infectious disease traits influencing disease transmission, such as the frequently modelled propensity to become infected and infectivity, which describes the host ability to transmit the infection to susceptible individuals. Furthermore, current quantitative genetic models fail to fully capture the heritable variation in host infectivity, mainly because they cannot accommodate the nonlinear infection dynamics underlying epidemiological data. We present in this paper a novel statistical model and an inference method to estimate genetic parameters associated with both host susceptibility and infectivity. Our methodology combines quantitative genetic models of social interactions with stochastic processes to model the random, nonlinear and dynamic nature of infections, and uses adaptive Bayesian computational techniques to estimate the model parameters. Results using simulated epidemic data show that our model can accurately estimate heritabilities and genetic risks not only of susceptibility but also of infectivity, therefore exploring a trait whose heritable variation is currently ignored in disease genetics and can greatly influence the spread of infectious diseases. Our proposed methodology offers potential impacts in areas such as livestock disease control through selective breeding and also in predicting and controlling the emergence of disease outbreaks in human populations.

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