A spatial simulation model for the dispersal of the bluetongue vector Culicoides brevitarsis in Australia

Joel Kelso, George Milne

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: The spread of Bluetongue virus (BTV) among ruminants is caused by movement of infected host animals or by movement of infected Culicoides midges, the vector of BTV. Biologically plausible models of Culicoides dispersal are necessary for predicting the spread of BTV and are important for planning control and eradication strategies. Methods: A spatially-explicit simulation model which captures the two underlying population mechanisms, population dynamics and movement, was developed using extensive data from a trapping program for C. brevitarsis on the east coast of Australia. A realistic midge flight sub-model was developed and the annual incursion and population establishment of C. brevitarsis was simulated. Data from the literature was used to parameterise the model. Results: The model was shown to reproduce the spread of C. brevitarsis southwards along the east Australian coastline in spring, from an endemic population to the north. Such incursions were shown to be reliant on wind-dispersal; Culicoides midge active flight on its own was not capable of achieving known rates of southern spread, nor was re-emergence of southern populations due to overwintering larvae. Data from midge trapping programmes were used to qualitatively validate the resulting simulation model. Conclusions: The model described in this paper is intended to form the vector component of an extended model that will also include BTV transmission. A model of midge movement and population dynamics has been developed in sufficient detail such that the extended model may be used to evaluate the timing and extent of BTV outbreaks. This extended model could then be used as a platform for addressing the effectiveness of spatially targeted vaccination strategies or animal movement bans as BTV spread mitigation measures, or the impact of climate change on the risk and extent of outbreaks. These questions involving incursive Culicoides spread cannot be simply addressed with non-spatial models. © 2014 Kelso, Milne.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-16
    JournalPLoS One
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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