The epidemiological dynamics of potentially free-living pathogens are often studied with respect to a specific pathogen species (e.g., cholera) and most studies concentrate only on host-pathogen interactions. Here we show that metacommunity-level interactions can alter conventional spatial disease dynamics. We introduce a pathogen eating consumer species and investigate a deterministic epidemiological model of two habitat patches, where both patches can be occupied by hosts, pathogens, and consumers of free-living pathogens. An isolated habitat patch shows periodic disease outbreaks in the host population, arising from cyclic consumer-pathogen dynamics. On the other hand, consumer dispersal between the patches generate asymmetric disease prevalence, such that the host population in one patch stays disease-free, while disease outbreaks occur in the other patch. Such asymmetry can also arise with host dispersal, where infected hosts carry pathogens to the other patch. This indirect movement of pathogens causes also a counter-intuitive effect: decreasing morbidity in a focal patch under increasing pathogen immigration. Our results underline that community-level interactions influence disease dynamics and consistent spatial asymmetry can arise also in spatially homogeneous systems.
Fields of Science
- 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology