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Modelling in animal health: mechanisms and data from the genome to the environment and control-related behaviour

“All models are wrong, but some are useful” (George Box)

Controlling the emergence, spread, and persistence of infectious animal pathogens is a significant challenge in our increasingly interconnected world where humans and domestic animals are moving more frequently over longer distances and changes in land-use patterns are placing them in closer contact with wildlife populations. Climate change and pollution are also altering the natural environment to create conditions that favour pathogen transmission. This not only impacts animal health, welfare, and production, but also threatens public health when the diseases are zoonotic as illustrated by the global health crisis of COVID-19.

To better understand how infectious diseases spread through populations and what we can do to control them, we have become increasingly reliant on the predictive outputs from phenomenological and mechanistic models, either numerical or more formal. These methods require researchers to integrate available knowledge on biological systems with often sparse and heterogeneous observation data to address a wide range of scenarios at different scales (within-host, within-population, territorial). Despite recent advances in computer science as wells as expansions to our epidemiological toolkit, there are still many methodological barriers to creating robust integrative models across scales and outputs that are accurate and useful enough to make informed disease control decisions. In particular, there is increasing recognition that economic, social, and political factors can have a significant influence on how individuals behave in response to disease threats especially in situations where the diseases are unregulated.

Researchers are rising to the challenge of innovating new modelling approaches to support the management of infectious diseases that have significant impacts on animal, human, and environmental health. The Modelling in Animal Health 2nd (ModAH²) international conference brought scientists from all over the world together to promote the percolation of ideas, approaches, and methods, and to share major scientific results in this field at the crossroads of several disciplines including veterinary epidemiology, applied mathematics, computer science, and statistics. The objective of this Special Series in Veterinary Research is to provide extended coverage of up-to-date research related to modelling in animal health based on the conference presentations.

Edited by Dr Pauline Ezanno, Dr Carolyn Gates, Dr Elisabeta Vergu and Dr Stefan Widgren.

Articles published in this collection

  1. The microbiota in humans and animals play crucial roles in defense against pathogens and offer a promising natural source for immunomodulatory products. However, the development of physiologically relevant mod...

    Authors: María Bravo, Selene Diaz-Chamorro, Sergio Garrido-Jiménez, Javier Blanco, Irene Simón, Waldo García, María José Montero, Pilar Gonçalves, Carlos Martínez, Guadalupe Cumplido-Laso, Dixan Agustín Benítez, Sonia Mulero-Navarro, Francisco Centeno, Ángel Carlos Román, Pedro Fernández-Llario, Rosario Cerrato…
    Citation: Veterinary Research 2023 54:91
  2. The “Zero by 30” strategic plan aims to eliminate human deaths from dog-mediated rabies by 2030 and domestic dog vaccination is a vital component of this strategic plan. In areas where domestic dog vaccination...

    Authors: Sarah Hayes, Kennedy Lushasi, Maganga Sambo, Joel Changalucha, Elaine A. Ferguson, Lwitiko Sikana, Katie Hampson, Pierre Nouvellet and Christl A. Donnelly
    Citation: Veterinary Research 2022 53:106
  3. Considering human decision-making is essential for understanding the mechanisms underlying the propagation of real-life diseases. We present an extension of a model for pathogen spread that considers farmers’ ...

    Authors: Lina Cristancho-Fajardo, Elisabeta Vergu, Gaël Beaunée, Sandie Arnoux and Pauline Ezanno
    Citation: Veterinary Research 2022 53:102
  4. Bovine respiratory disease (BRD) dramatically affects young calves, especially in fattening facilities, and is difficult to understand, anticipate and control due to the multiplicity of factors involved in the...

    Authors: Sébastien Picault, Pauline Ezanno, Kristen Smith, David Amrine, Brad White and Sébastien Assié
    Citation: Veterinary Research 2022 53:77
  5. Bovine paratuberculosis is an endemic disease caused by Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (Map). Map is mainly transmitted between herds through movement of infected but undetected animals. Our obje...

    Authors: Floor Biemans, Jamie Tratalos, Sandie Arnoux, George Ramsbottom, Simon J. More and Pauline Ezanno
    Citation: Veterinary Research 2022 53:45
  6. In two “départements” in the South-West of France, bovine tuberculosis (bTB) outbreaks due to Mycobacterium bovis spoligotype SB0821 have been identified in cattle since 2002 and in wildlife since 2013. Using who...

    Authors: Hélène Duault, Lorraine Michelet, Maria-Laura Boschiroli, Benoit Durand and Laetitia Canini
    Citation: Veterinary Research 2022 53:28
  7. Infectious diseases in livestock are well-known to infect multiple hosts and persist through a combination of within- and between-host transmission pathways. Uncertainty remains about the epidemic dynamics of ...

    Authors: Nicolas C. Cardenas, Abagael L. Sykes, Francisco P. N. Lopes and Gustavo Machado
    Citation: Veterinary Research 2022 53:14