Dogs and rabies in Africa: a new study shows how domestic dogs contact networks can impact the transmission of infectious diseases

Though domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) are a social species and a reservoir for several zoonotic infections, few studies have empirically determined contact patterns within dog populations. In a new paper out in PLOS – Neglected Tropical Diseases, an international team of scientists including ISI Foundation Scientific Director Ciro Cattuto, ISI Research Leader Michele Tizzoni, and ISI Researcher Laura Ozella used high-resolution proximity logging technology to characterize the contact networks of free-ranging domestic dogs from two settlements in rural Chad.

Researchers used these data to simulate the transmission of an infection comparable to rabies and investigated the effects of including observed contact heterogeneities on epidemic outcomes. They found that the observed contact rates between dogs are heterogeneous and that interactions were dominated by contacts that were short in duration and between dogs from the same household. It also emerged that these observed heterogeneities in contacts are important for the prediction of epidemiological outcomes in free-ranging domestic dogs. Results demonstrate that epidemic risk is not equal among individuals: those presenting a higher risk for disease transmission can be identified by their network position. Research provides evidence that observable traits hold potential for informing targeted disease management strategies.

“High-resolution contact networks of free-ranging domestic dogs Canis familiaris and implications for transmission of infection”, Jared K. Wilson-Aggarwal, Laura Ozella, Michele Tizzoni, Ciro Cattuto, George J. F. Swan, Tchonfienet Moundai, Matthew J. Silk, James A. Zingeser, Robbie A. McDonald. PLOS – Neglected Tropical Diseases, July 15, 2019,link