Parasitology 2

Research title:  


Tutor: Paolo Lanfranchi


Contact details

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tel. 02 503 18097


State of the art

Parasite infections are commonly aggregated in a restricted number of individuals. This pattern is a consequence of heterogeneities within parasite and host populations coupled with environmental ones. This aggregation of parasites results in a small fraction of the host population being most affected by parasite detrimental effects and, at the same time, it determines that a restricted number of individuals, also called “super-spreaders”, is responsible for the most of parasite transmission. Identifying these super-spreaders is essential for controlling parasite infections, since targeted control measures directed to this limited number of hosts can provide a more effective parasite reduction and a more efficient use of resources (e.g. a targeted administration of drugs that limits the rise of drug-resistance).


Parasite infections are a dynamic process determined by the complex set of interactions between hosts, parasite populations and the environment. To investigate these processes, the application of modelling approaches through the simulation of the different transmission routes is essential to disentangle the most influential mechanisms and thus provide predictions on future outcomes. In particular, the simulation of the mechanisms leading to the aggregate distribution of parasites, may allow the identification of the most influential processes determining this pattern. At the same time, once developed, these framework represents a robust tool for analysing and predicting the outcome of the targeted control measures directed to specific groups of individuals.


Aims of the project

This project aims to develop simulation models that will allow the analysis of endoparasite infection dynamics in animals populations.

The following steps will lead to the development of appropriate predictive models which will include different source of heterogeneities: 1) analysis of field parasitological data of ruminants to identify the sources of heterogeneities, 2) development of base mathematical model simulating the dynamics of the main endoparasites of ruminants in a single host population, 3) introduction of sources of heterogeneities (e.g. age, environmental exposition, etc.) to the base model within a single host parasite population, 4) extension of the base model to multi-host species systems, 5) application of these models to simulate the effectiveness of prophylactic and control measures, 6) use of these models for long term predictions about the spread and impact of parasite infections.

The achievement of these objectives will ultimately support the development of the predictive modelling of parasite infections which will be crucial for the analysis of epidemiological scenarios and the planning of control campaigns.


Recent publications of the tutor in the field 

1. Ferrari N., Citterio C., Lanfranchi P. (2016). Infracommunity crowding as individual measure of interactive-isolationist degree of parasite communities: disclosing the effects of extrinsic and host factors. Parasites & Vectors, 9: 88-94.

2. Luzzago C., Ebranati E., Cabezón O., Fernández-Sirera L., Lavín S., Rosell R., Veo C., Rossi L., Cavallero S., Lanfranchi P., Ignasi M., Zehender G. (2016). Spatial and temporal phylogeny of border disease virus in pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra p. pyrenaica). PLoS ONE 11 (12): e0168232.

3. Ferrari, N., Rosà, R., Lanfranchi, P., Ruckstuhl, K.E. (2010). Effect of sexual segregation on host–parasite interaction: Model simulation for abomasal parasite dynamics in alpine ibex (Capra ibex). International Journal for Parasitology, 40, 1285–1293.

4. Formenti, N., Trogu, T., Pedrotti, L., Gaffuri, A., Lanfranchi, P., Ferrari, N. (2015). Toxoplasma gondii Infection in Alpine Red Deer (Cervus elaphus): Its Spread and Effects on Fertility. PLoS ONE, 10, e0138472.

5. Chiari, M., Ferrari, N., Giardiello, D., Avisani, D., Zanoni, M., Alborali, G.L., Lanfranchi, P., Guberti, V., Capucci, L., Lavazza, A. (2014). Temporal dynamics of European brown hare syndrome infection in Northern Italian brown hares (Lepus europaeus). European Journal of Wildlife Research, 60, 891–896.