Contact networks structured by sex underpin sex-specific epidemiology of infection
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This is the author accepted manuscript. It is currently under an indefinite embargo pending publication by Wiley. 12 month embargo required upon publication.
Contact networks are fundamental to the transmission of infection and host sex often affects the acquisition and progression of infection. However, the epidemiological impacts of sex-related variation in animal contact networks have rarely been investigated. We test the hypothesis that sex-biases in infection are related to variation in multilayer contact networks structured by sex in a population of European badgers Meles meles naturally infected with Mycobacterium bovis. Our key results are that male-male and between-sex networks are structured at broader spatial scales than female-female networks and that in male-male and between-sex contact networks, but not female-female networks, there is a significant relationship between infection and contacts with individuals in other groups. These sex differences in social behaviour may underpin male-biased acquisition of infection and may result in males being responsible for more between-group transmission. This highlights the importance of sex-related variation in host behaviour when managing animal diseases.
MS is funded by a NERC grant (NE/M004546/1) awarded to RM, DH, MB and DC, with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (led by RD) as project partners. Data were collected as part of NW’s PhD, which was funded by Defra. Thanks to David Fisher for advice.
This is the author accepted manuscript.
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