Prediction of Bluetongue virus seropositivity on pastoral properties in northern Australia using remotely sensed bioclimatic variables
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To monitor Bluetongue virus (BTV) activity in northern and eastern Australia the National Arbovirus Monitoring Program (NAMP) collects data from a network of sentinel herds. Groups of young cattle, previously unexposed to infection, are regularly tested to detect evidence of seroconversion. While this approach has been successful in fulfilling international surveillance requirements, it is labour and cost intensive and operationally challenging in the remote area of the northern Australian rangelands. The aim of this study was to assess the suitability of remotely sensed data as a means for predicting the distribution of BTV seroprevalence. For the period 2000–2009, bioclimatic variables were derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) data products for the entire Northern Territory. A generalised linear model, based on the seasonal Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and minimum land surface temperature, was developed to predict BTV seropositivity.The odds of seropositivity in locations with NDVI estimates >0.45 was 3.90 (95% CI 1.11 to 13.7) times that of locations where NDVI estimates were between 0 and 0.45. Unit increases in minimum night land surface temperature in the previous winter increased the odds of seropositivity by a factor of 1.40 (95% CI 1.02 to 1.91). The area under a Receiver Operator Characteristic curve generated on the basis of the model predictions was 0.8. Uncertainty in the model's predictions was attributed to the spatio-temporal inconsistency in the precision of the available serosurveillance data. The discriminatory ability of models of this type could be improved by ensuring that exact location details and date of NAMP BTV test events are consistently recorded.
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