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Modeling co-infection of Ixodes tick-borne pathogens

1. Department of Applied Mathematics, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China
2. School of Information Engineering, Guangdong Medical University, Dongguan, Guangdong 523808, China
3. Mathematics and Science College, Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai 200234, China

Ticks, including the Ixodes ricinus and Ixodes scapularis hard tick species, are regarded as the most common arthropod vectors of both human and animal diseases in Europe and the United States capable of transmitting a large number of bacteria, viruses and parasites. Since ticks in larval and nymphal stages share the same host community which can harbor multiple pathogens, they may be co-infected with two or more pathogens, with a subsequent high likelihood of co-transmission to humans or animals. This paper is devoted to the modeling of co-infection of tick-borne pathogens, with special focus on the co-infection of Borrelia burgdorferi (agent of Lyme disease) and Babesia microti (agent of human babesiosis). Considering the effect of co-infection, we illustrate that co-infection with B. burgdorferi increases the likelihood of B. microti transmission, by increasing the basic reproduction number of B. microti below the threshold smaller than one to be possibly above the threshold for persistence. The study confirms a mechanism of the ecological fitness paradox, the establishment of B. microti which has weak fitness (basic reproduction number less than one). Furthermore, co-infection could facilitate range expansion of both pathogens.

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Keywords Co-infection; tick-borne pathogens; mathematical model

Citation: Yijun Lou, Li Liu, Daozhou Gao. Modeling co-infection of Ixodes tick-borne pathogens. Mathematical Biosciences and Engineering, 2017, 14(5&6): 1301-1316. doi: 10.3934/mbe.2017067

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Copyright Info: 2017, Yijun Lou, et al., licensee AIMS Press. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licese (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

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