High-resolution contact networks of free-ranging domestic dogs Canis familiaris and implications for transmission of infection.PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2019; 13(7):e0007565PN
Contact patterns strongly influence the dynamics of disease transmission in both human and non-human animal populations. Domestic dogs Canis familiaris are a social species and are a reservoir for several zoonotic infections, yet few studies have empirically determined contact patterns within dog populations. Using high-resolution proximity logging technology, we characterised the contact networks of free-ranging domestic dogs from two settlements (n = 108 dogs, covering >80% of the population in each settlement) in rural Chad. We 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. We found that dog contact networks displayed considerable heterogeneity, particularly in the duration of contacts and that the network had communities that were highly correlated with household membership. Simulations using observed contact networks had smaller epidemic sizes than those that assumed random mixing, demonstrating the unsuitability of homogenous mixing models in predicting epidemic outcomes. When contact heterogeneities were included in simulations, the network position of the individual initially infected had an important effect on epidemic outcomes. The risk of an epidemic occurring was best predicted by the initially infected individual's ranked degree, while epidemic size was best predicted by the individual's ranked eigenvector centrality. For dogs in one settlement, we found that ranked eigenvector centrality was correlated with range size. Our results demonstrate that observed heterogeneities in contacts are important for the prediction of epidemiological outcomes in free-ranging domestic dogs. We show that individuals presenting a higher risk for disease transmission can be identified by their network position and provide evidence that observable traits hold potential for informing targeted disease management strategies.