Food availability leads to more connected contact networks among peridomestic zoonotic reservoir hosts

Amy J. Kuenzi, Angela D. Luis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The North American deermouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) is a reservoir host for many zoonotic pathogens. Deermice have been well studied, but few studies have attempted to understand social interactions within the species despite these interactions being key to understanding disease transmission. We performed an experiment to determine if supplemental food or nesting material affected social interactions of deermice and tested if interactions increased with increasing population density. We constructed three simulated buildings that received one of three treatments: food, nesting material, or control. Mice were tagged with passive integrated transponder (PIT) tags, and their movement in and out of buildings was monitored with PIT tag readers. PIT tag readings were used to create contact networks, assuming a contact if two deermice were in the same building at the same time. We found that buildings with food led to contact networks that were approximately 10 times more connected than buildings with nesting material or control buildings. We also saw a significant effect of population density on the average number of contacts per individual. These results suggest that food supplementation which is common in peridomestic settings, can significantly increase contacts between reservoir hosts, potentially leading to increased transmission of zoonotic viruses within the reservoir host and from reservoir hosts to humans.

Original languageEnglish
Article number230809
JournalRoyal Society Open Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 15 2023


  • disease transmission
  • Peromyscus maniculatus
  • resource provisioning
  • social network analysis
  • supplemental feeding


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