Spatial analyses of pathogen occurrence in their natural surroundings entail unique opportunities for assessing in vivo drivers of disease epidemiology. Such studies are however confronted by the complexity of the landscape driving epidemic spread and disease persistence. Since relevant information on how the landscape influences
epidemiological dynamics is rarely available, simple spatial models of spread are often used. In the current study we demonstrate both how more complex transmission pathways could be incorpoted to epidemiological analyses and how this can offer novel
insights into understanding disease spread across the landscape. Our study is focused on Podosphaera plantaginis, a powdery mildew pathogen that transmits from one host plant to another by wind-dispersed spores. Its host populations often reside next to roads and thus we hypothesize that the road network influences the epidemiology of P.
plantaginis. To analyse the impact of roads on the transmission dynamics, we consider a spatial dataset on the presence-absence records on the pathogen collected from a
fragmented landscape of host populations. Using both mechanistic transmission modeling and statistical modeling with road-network summary statistics as predictors,
we conclude the evident role of the road network in the progression of the epidemics: a phenomena which is manifested both in the enhanced transmission along the roads and
in infections typically occurring at the central hub locations of the road network. We also demonstrate how the road network affects the spread of the pathogen using simulations. Jointly our results highlight how human alteration of natural landscapes may increase disease spread.
Data has been collected with repeated presence-absence surveys in the pathosystem.
Academy of Finland, Award: 284601
Jane ja Aatos Erkon Säätiö
European Research Council, Award: Pathevol 281517
European Research Council, Award: Resistance 724508