PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Tapeworm -- Parasites
Background: The pork tapeworm (Taenia solium) is a parasitic helminth that imposes a major health and economic burden on poor rural populations around the world. As recognized by the World Health Organization, a key barrier for achieving control of T. solium is the lack of an accurate and validated simulation model with which to study transmission and evaluate available control and elimination strategies. CystiAgent is a spatially-explicit agent based model for T. solium that is unique among T. solium models in its ability to represent key spatial and environmental features of transmission and simulate spatially targeted interventions, such as ring strategy. Methods/Principal findings: We validated CystiAgent against results from the Ring Strategy Trial (RST)–a large cluster-randomized trial conducted in northern Peru that evaluated six unique interventions for T. solium control in 23 villages. For the validation, each intervention strategy was replicated in CystiAgent, and the simulated prevalences of human taeniasis, porcine cysticercosis, and porcine seroincidence were compared against prevalence estimates from the trial. Results showed that CystiAgent produced declines in transmission in response to each of the six intervention strategies, but overestimated the effect of interventions in the majority of villages; simulated prevalences for human taenasis and porcine cysticercosis at the end of the trial were a median of 0.53 and 5.0 percentages points less than prevalence observed at the end of the trial, respectively. Conclusions/Significance: The validation of CystiAgent represented an important step towards developing an accurate and reliable T. solium transmission model that can be deployed to fill critical gaps in our understanding of T. solium transmission and control. To improve model accuracy, future versions would benefit from improved data on pig immunity and resistance, field effectiveness of anti-helminthic treatment, and factors driving spatial clustering of T. solium infections including dispersion and contact with T. solium eggs in the environment. Author summary: Neurocysticercosis, caused by the ingestion of Taenia solium eggs, is a major cause of human epilepsy around the world. A wide spectrum of tools to fight T. solium is are now available and include antiparasitic treatment for pigs and humans, porcine vaccines, and sanitation improvements; however, the ideal combination of interventions applied to populations to maximize effectiveness and feasibility is not known. Transmission models are one tool that can be used to compare and evaluate different intervention strategies, but no currently available T. solium models have been tested for accuracy. In this research, we validated our model (“CystiAgent”) by comparing simulations of the model to the results of a large-scale trial testing a variety of T. solium control interventions. The model was calibrated using observed epidemiological data from these villages and evaluated for its ability to reproduce the effect of T. solium control interventions. The validation showed that the model was able to reproduce the baseline levels of disease, but generally overestimated the effect that each intervention would have on transmission. These results will allow us to identify limitations of the current model to improve future versions, and represent a step forward in the creation of a tool to design and evaluate future programs to control and eliminate T. solium.
Copyright: © 2021 Pray et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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Pray, I. W., Pizzitutti, F., Bonnet, G., Gonzalez-Gustavson, E., Wakeland, W., Pan, W. K., Lambert, W. E., Gonzalez, A. E., Garcia, H. H., O’Neal, S. E., & for the Cysticercosis Working Group in Peru. (2021). Validation of a spatial agent-based model for Taenia solium transmission (“CystiAgent”) against a large prospective trial of control strategies in northern Peru. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 15(10), e0009885. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0009885