Vector preference and host defense against infection interact to determine disease dynamics
Vector preference based on host infection status has long been recognized for its importance in disease dynamics. Prior theoretical work has assumed that all hosts are uniformly susceptible to the pathogen. Here we investigated disease dynamics when this assumption is relaxed using a series of vector-host epidemiological compartment models with variable levels of host resistance or tolerance to infection - collectively termed defense. In our models, vectors cannot acquire the infection from resistant hosts but can acquire from tolerant hosts. Specifically, we investigated the interacting effects of vector preference and host defense in a series of single- and two-patch models. Results indicate that resistant host types generally reduce disease prevalence and pathogen spillover, independent of vector preference. The epidemiological consequences of host tolerance, however, depended on vector preference. When vectors preferred diseased hosts, tolerance reduced incidence compared to susceptible hosts; when vectors avoided diseased hosts, tolerance enhanced disease prevalence. Finally, a variation of the model that included preference-based vector patch leaving rates suggests that both resistance and tolerance can promote pathogen spillover if vectors prefer diseased hosts, because of increased vector dispersal into susceptible patches. Collectively, we found complex, context-dependent effects of vector preference and host defense on disease dynamics. In the context of management programs for vector-borne diseases, managers should consider both the precise form of host defense present in a population, breed, or cultivar, as well as vector feeding behavior.