On the interpretation of age–intensity profiles and dispersion patterns in parasitological surveys

H. P. DUERR a1a2c1, K. DIETZ a1 and M. EICHNER a1
a1 Department of Medical Biometry, University of Tübingen, Germany
a2 Institute of Tropical Medicine, University of Tübingen, Germany

Article author query
duerr h   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
dietz k   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
eichner m   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


The present paper describes how age–intensity profiles of macroparasite burdens are affected by processes underlying the distribution of the parasite numbers in host populations. In a comparative way, we consider the following 6 processes: (i) age-dependent exposure, (ii) parasite-induced host mortality, (iii) heterogeneity within the host population, (iv) clumped infection, (v) density-dependent parasite mortality and (vi) density-dependent parasite establishment. For each of these processes, we show typical patterns in the age–intensity profile and provide, if possible, explicit and simple solutions for the age-dependent mean parasite burden and the corresponding dispersion patterns. Emphasis is given to density-dependent parasite establishment and to age–intensity profiles resulting from the superposition of different processes. By means of 2 examples we show that the interpretation of observed patterns can be ambiguous if more than 1 process takes place. These findings underline that age–intensity profiles should be interpreted on the basis of available a priori knowledge about the processes assumed to be involved. For purposes of testing different hypotheses, a simulation program is provided with which discrepancies between model prediction and data can be explored.

(Received May 15 2002)
(Accepted September 11 2002)
(Revised September 11 2002)

Key Words: models; immunosuppression; density dependence; age dependence; clumped infection; aggregation; immigration–death process.

c1 Corresponding author: Department of Medical Biometry, University of Tübingen, Westbahnhofstrasse 55, 72070 Tübingen, Germany. Tel: +49 7071 2978259. Fax: +49 7071 295075. E-mail: