Indexed on: 12 Oct '19Published on: 11 Oct '19Published in: PLoS computational biology
Aedes (Stegomyia) aegypti (L.) and Ae. (Stegomyia) albopictus (Skuse) mosquitoes can transmit dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever, and Zika viruses. Limited surveillance has led to uncertainty regarding the geographic ranges of these vectors globally, and particularly in regions at the present-day margins of habitat suitability such as the contiguous United States. Empirical habitat suitability models based on environmental conditions can augment surveillance gaps to describe the estimated potential species ranges, but model accuracy is unclear. We identified previously published regional and global habitat suitability models for Ae. aegypti (n = 6) and Ae. albopictus (n = 8) for which adequate information was available to reproduce the models for the contiguous U.S. Using a training subset of recently updated county-level surveillance records of Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus and records of counties conducting surveillance, we constructed accuracy-weighted, probabilistic ensemble models from these base models. To assess accuracy and uncertainty we compared individual and ensemble model predictions of species presence or absence to both training and testing data. The ensemble models were among the most accurate and also provided calibrated probabilities of presence for each species. The quantitative probabilistic framework enabled identification of areas with high uncertainty and model bias across the U.S. where improved models or additional data could be most beneficial. The results may be of immediate utility for counties considering surveillance and control programs for Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus. Moreover, the assessment framework can drive future efforts to provide validated quantitative estimates to support these programs at local, national, and international scales.