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Analysis of Lifetime Mortality Trajectories in Wildlife Disease Research: BaSTA and Beyond

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Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Penryn TR10 9FE, UK
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National Wildlife Management Centre, Animal and Plant Health Agency, Sand Hutton YO41 1LZ, UK
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Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn TR10 9FE, UK
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College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, University of Exeter, Penryn TR10 9FE, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Diversity 2019, 11(10), 182; https://doi.org/10.3390/d11100182
Received: 30 July 2019 / Revised: 9 September 2019 / Accepted: 24 September 2019 / Published: 1 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Bayesian Survival Trajectory Analysis in Wildlife)
Wildlife hosts are important reservoirs of a wide range of human and livestock infections worldwide, and in some instances, wildlife populations are threatened by disease. Yet wildlife diseases are difficult to monitor, and we often lack an understanding of basic epidemiological parameters that might inform disease management and the design of targeted interventions. The impacts of disease on host survival are generally associated with age, yet traditional epidemiological models tend to use simplistic categories of host age. Mortality trajectory analysis provides the opportunity to understand age-specific impacts of disease and uncover epidemiological patterns across complete life histories. Here, we use Bayesian survival trajectory analysis (BaSTA) software to analyse capture-mark-recapture data from a population of wild badgers Meles meles naturally infected with Mycobacterium bovis, the causative agent of tuberculosis in badgers and cattle. We reveal non-constant mortality trajectories, and show that infection exaggerates an age-dependent increase in late-life mortality. This study provides evidence for actuarial senescence in badgers, a species previously believed to display constant mortality throughout life. Our case study demonstrates the application of mortality trajectory analysis in wildlife disease research, but also highlights important limitations. We recommend BaSTA for mortality trajectory analysis in epidemiological research, but also suggest combining approaches that can include diagnostic uncertainty and the movement of hosts between disease states as they age. We recommend future combinations of multi-state and multi-event modelling frameworks for complex systems incorporating age-varying disease states. View Full-Text
Keywords: Bayesian survival trajectory analysis; survival; mortality; Bayesian inference; senescence; population dynamics Bayesian survival trajectory analysis; survival; mortality; Bayesian inference; senescence; population dynamics
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MDPI and ACS Style

Hudson, D.W.; Delahay, R.; McDonald, R.A.; McKinley, T.J.; Hodgson, D.J. Analysis of Lifetime Mortality Trajectories in Wildlife Disease Research: BaSTA and Beyond. Diversity 2019, 11, 182.

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