Statistics Papers

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version


Publication Source

PLoS Computational Biology








With increasing urbanization vector-borne diseases are quickly developing in cities, and urban control strategies are needed. If streets are shown to be barriers to disease vectors, city blocks could be used as a convenient and relevant spatial unit of study and control. Unfortunately, existing spatial analysis tools do not allow for assessment of the impact of an urban grid on the presence of disease agents. Here, we first propose a method to test for the significance of the impact of streets on vector infestation based on a decomposition of Moran’s spatial autocorrelation index; and second, develop a Gaussian Field Latent Class model to finely describe the effect of streets while controlling for cofactors and imperfect detection of vectors. We apply these methods to cross-sectional data of infestation by the Chagas disease vector Triatoma infestans in the city of Arequipa, Peru. Our Moran’s decomposition test reveals that the distribution of T. infestans in this urban environment is significantly constrained by streets (p,0.05). With the Gaussian Field Latent Class model we confirm that streets provide a barrier against infestation and further show that greater than 90% of the spatial component of the probability of vector presence is explained by the correlation among houses within city blocks. The city block is thus likely to be an appropriate spatial unit to describe and control T. infestans in an urban context. Characteristics of the urban grid can influence the spatial dynamics of vector borne disease and should be considered when designing public health policies.


animals, Chagas disease, disease vectors, humans, Peru, urban health



Date Posted: 27 November 2017

This document has been peer reviewed.