Paper Of The Week: Wilschut et al. (2015) Spatial distribution patterns of plague hosts: point pattern analysis of the burrows of great gerbils in Kazakhstan

24 Jun

Epidemiology has advanced beyond all recognition in recent years, but it is sometimes surprising just how little spatial information is incorporated into models about how diseases spread in space and time. Yet, the spread of disease will almost always have a spatial component, and ignoring this can result in a mis-understanding of how a given disease is likely to move across a given landscape.

This is a point highlighted by the authors of this weeks Paper of the Week. The paper itself is Wilschut et al. (2015) Spatial distribution patterns of plague hosts: point pattern analysis of the burrows of great gerbils in Kazakhstan, and it looks for evidence of spatial clustering in the distribution of a key reservoir species for plague bacteria in central Asia. The clustering they find, they point out, has important implications for our understanding of how plague can persist and spread through local landscapes. In particular, their results suggest that both the invasion and the persistence of plague will be influenced not only by the distances between occupied burrows (as might be expected), but also by the distances between clusters of occupied burrows, adding an extra level of complexity to the spatial elements of plague epidemiology.

The reason that I selected this paper was because it provides a nice case study of how other information, in this case the levels of spatial clustering in a reservoir host, needs to be studied and understood if we are to properly understand the epidemiology of any given disease. This means that epidemiologists need to not only understand diseases, but also GIS, in order to understand the landscapes in which the diseases they study occur.

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Dr Colin D. MacLeod,
Founder, GIS In Ecology
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2 Responses to “Paper Of The Week: Wilschut et al. (2015) Spatial distribution patterns of plague hosts: point pattern analysis of the burrows of great gerbils in Kazakhstan”

  1. Liesbeth Wilschut 11/12/2015 at 16:23 #

    Hi, really nice to read your blog, and also this post! Glad you liked the paper! One small thing: the name Wilschu is spelled wrong, it should be Wilschut. Thanks!

    • GIS In Ecology 11/12/2015 at 23:59 #

      Hi Liesbeth,

      Thanks for the comment, and I can only deeply apologise for missing out the T at the end of your name. I’ll get this corrected ASAP.

      All the best,

      COlin

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