Estimating Loss of Brucella Abortus Antibodies from Age-Specific Serological Data In Elk


J A Benavides, D Caillaud, B M Scurlock, E J Maichak, W H Edwards, P C Cross




Serological data are one of the primary sources of information for disease monitoring in wildlife. However, the duration of the seropositive status of exposed individuals is almost always unknown for many free-ranging host species. Directly estimating rates of antibody loss typically requires difficult longitudinal sampling of individuals following seroconversion. Instead, we propose a Bayesian statistical approach linking age and serological data to a mechanistic epidemiological model to infer brucellosis infection, the probability of antibody loss, and recovery rates of elk (Cervus canadensis) in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. We found that seroprevalence declined above the age of ten, with no evidence of disease-induced mortality. The probability of antibody loss was estimated to be 0.70 per year after a five-year period of seropositivity and the basic reproduction number for brucellosis to 2.13. Our results suggest that individuals are unlikely to become re-infected because models with this mechanism were unable to reproduce a significant decline in seroprevalence in older individuals. This study highlights the possible implications of antibody loss, which could bias our estimation of critical epidemiological parameters for wildlife disease management based on serological data.



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