Infectious disease and group size

More than just a numbers game

Charles L. Nunn, Ferenc Jordan, Collin M. Mc-Cabe, Jennifer L. Verdolin, Jennifer Fewell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

49 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Increased risk of infectious disease is assumed to be a major cost of group living, yet empirical evidence for this effect is mixed. We studied whether larger social groups are more subdivided structurally. If so, the social subdivisions that form in larger groups may act as barriers to the spread of infection, weakening the association between group size and infectious disease. To investigate this ‘social bottleneck’ hypothesis, we examined the association between group size and four network structure metrics in 43 vertebrate and invertebrate species. We focused on metrics involving modularity, clustering, distance and centralization. In a meta-analysis of intraspecific variation in social networks, modularity showed positive associations with network size, with a weaker but still positive effect in cross-species analyses. Network distance also showed a positive association with group size when using intraspecific variation. We then used a theoretical model to explore the effects of subgrouping relative to other effects that influence disease spread in socially structured populations. Outbreaks reached higher prevalence when groups were larger, but subgrouping reduced prevalence. Subgrouping also acted as a ‘brake’ on disease spread between groups.We suggest research directions to understand the conditions under which larger groups become more subdivided, and to devise new metrics that account for subgrouping when investigating the links between sociality and infectious disease risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume370
Issue number1669
DOIs
StatePublished - May 26 2015

Fingerprint

infectious disease
group size
infectious diseases
Communicable Diseases
disease spread
intraspecific variation
social networks
Invertebrates
meta-analysis
Social Support
centralization
Disease Outbreaks
Cluster Analysis
Vertebrates
Meta-Analysis
social network
Theoretical Models
invertebrates
vertebrates
Economics

Keywords

  • Comparative analysis
  • Infectious disease
  • Meta-analysis
  • Social network
  • Social structure
  • Sociality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

Cite this

Infectious disease and group size : More than just a numbers game. / Nunn, Charles L.; Jordan, Ferenc; Mc-Cabe, Collin M.; Verdolin, Jennifer L.; Fewell, Jennifer.

In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Vol. 370, No. 1669, 26.05.2015.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Nunn, Charles L. ; Jordan, Ferenc ; Mc-Cabe, Collin M. ; Verdolin, Jennifer L. ; Fewell, Jennifer. / Infectious disease and group size : More than just a numbers game. In: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 2015 ; Vol. 370, No. 1669.
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