The basic reproduction number of a pathogen, R 0, determines whether a pathogen will spread (R0>1R 0>1), when introduced into a fully susceptible population or fade out (R0<1R 0<1), because infected hosts do not, on average, replace themselves. In this paper we develop a simple mechanistic model for the basic reproduction number for a group of tick-borne pathogens that wholly, or almost wholly, depend on horizontal transmission to and from vertebrate hosts. This group includes the causative agent of Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, and the causative agent of human babesiosis, Babesia microti, for which transmission between co-feeding ticks and vertical transmission from adult female ticks are both negligible. The model has only 19 parameters, all of which have a clear biological interpretation and can be estimated from laboratory or field data. The model takes into account the transmission efficiency from the vertebrate host as a function of the days since infection, in part because of the potential for this dynamic to interact with tick phenology, which is also included in the model. This sets the model apart from previous, similar models for R0 for tick-borne pathogens. We then define parameter ranges for the 19 parameters using estimates from the literature, as well as laboratory and field data, and perform a global sensitivity analysis of the model. This enables us to rank the importance of the parameters in terms of their contribution to the observed variation in R0. We conclude that the transmission efficiency from the vertebrate host to Ixodes scapularis ticks, the survival rate of Ixodes scapularis from fed larva to feeding nymph, and the fraction of nymphs finding a competent host, are the most influential factors for R0. This contrasts with other vector borne pathogens where it is usually the abundance of the vector or host, or the vector-to-host ratio, that determine conditions for emergence. These results are a step towards a better understanding of the geographical expansion of currently emerging horizontally transmitted tick-borne pathogens such as Babesia microti, as well as providing a firmer scientific basis for targeted use of acaricide or the application of wildlife vaccines that are currently in development
To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.