Spatially explicit conditions for waterborne pathogen invasion. Academic Article uri icon


  • Waterborne pathogens cause many possibly lethal human diseases. We derive the condition for pathogen invasion and subsequent disease outbreak in a territory with specific, space-inhomogeneous characteristics (hydrological, ecological, demographic, and epidemiological). The criterion relies on a spatially explicit model accounting for the density of susceptible and infected individuals and the pathogen concentration in a network of communities linked by human mobility and the water system. Pathogen invasion requires that a dimensionless parameter, the dominant eigenvalue of a generalized reproductive matrix J0, be larger than unity. Conditions for invasion are studied while crucial parameters (population density distribution, contact and water contamination rates, pathogen growth rates) and the characteristics of the networks (connectivity, directional transport, water retention times, mobility patterns) are varied. We analyze both simple, prototypical test cases and realistic landscapes, in which optimal channel networks mimic the water systems and gravitational models describe human mobility. Also, we show that the dominant eigenvector of J0 effectively portrays the geography of epidemic outbreaks, that is, the areas of the studied territory that will be initially affected by an epidemic. This is important for planning an efficient spatial allocation of interventions (e.g., improving sanitation and providing emergency aid and medicines).

published proceedings

  • Am Nat

altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Gatto, M., Mari, L., Bertuzzo, E., Casagrandi, R., Righetto, L., Rodriguez-Iturbe, I., & Rinaldo, A.

citation count

  • 31

complete list of authors

  • Gatto, Marino||Mari, Lorenzo||Bertuzzo, Enrico||Casagrandi, Renato||Righetto, Lorenzo||Rodriguez-Iturbe, Ignacio||Rinaldo, Andrea

publication date

  • September 2013