Inference of seasonal and pandemic influenza transmission dynamics.
ABSTRACT: The inference of key infectious disease epidemiological parameters is critical for characterizing disease spread and devising prevention and containment measures. The recent emergence of surveillance records mined from big data such as health-related online queries and social media, as well as model inference methods, permits the development of new methodologies for more comprehensive estimation of these parameters. We use such data in conjunction with Bayesian inference methods to study the transmission dynamics of influenza. We simultaneously estimate key epidemiological parameters, including population susceptibility, the basic reproductive number, attack rate, and infectious period, for 115 cities during the 2003-2004 through 2012-2013 seasons, including the 2009 pandemic. These estimates discriminate key differences in the epidemiological characteristics of these outbreaks across 10 y, as well as spatial variations of influenza transmission dynamics among subpopulations in the United States. In addition, the inference methods appear to compensate for observational biases and underreporting inherent in the surveillance data.
Project description:Despite considerable research efforts, little is yet known about key epidemiological parameters of H5N1 highly pathogenic influenza viruses in their avian hosts. Here we show how these parameters can be estimated using a limited number of birds in experimental transmission studies. Our quantitative estimates, based on Bayesian methods of inference, reveal that (i) the period of latency of H5N1 influenza virus in unvaccinated chickens is short (mean: 0.24 days; 95% credible interval: 0.099-0.48 days); (ii) the infectious period of H5N1 virus in unvaccinated chickens is approximately 2 days (mean: 2.1 days; 95%CI: 1.8-2.3 days); (iii) the reproduction number of H5N1 virus in unvaccinated chickens need not be high (mean: 1.6; 95%CI: 0.90-2.5), although the virus is expected to spread rapidly because it has a short generation interval in unvaccinated chickens (mean: 1.3 days; 95%CI: 1.0-1.5 days); and (iv) vaccination with genetically and antigenically distant H5N2 vaccines can effectively halt transmission. Simulations based on the estimated parameters indicate that herd immunity may be obtained if at least 80% of chickens in a flock are vaccinated. We discuss the implications for the control of H5N1 avian influenza virus in areas where it is endemic.
Project description:The control, prediction, and understanding of epidemiological processes require insight into how infectious pathogens transmit in a population. The chain of transmission can in principle be reconstructed with phylogenetic methods which analyze the evolutionary history using pathogen sequence data. The quality of the reconstruction, however, crucially depends on the underlying epidemiological model used in phylogenetic inference. Until now, only simple epidemiological models have been used, which make limiting assumptions such as constant rate parameters, infinite total population size, or deterministically changing population size of infected individuals. Here, we present a novel phylogenetic method to infer parameters based on a classical stochastic epidemiological model. Specifically, we use the susceptible-infected-susceptible model, which accounts for density-dependent transmission rates and finite total population size, leading to a stochastically changing infected population size. We first validate our method by estimating epidemic parameters for simulated data and then apply it to transmission clusters from the Swiss HIV epidemic. Our estimates of the basic reproductive number R0 for the considered Swiss HIV transmission clusters are significantly higher than previous estimates, which were derived assuming infinite population size. This difference in key parameter estimates highlights the importance of careful model choice when doing phylogenetic inference. In summary, this article presents the first fully stochastic implementation of a classical epidemiological model for phylogenetic inference and thereby addresses a key aspect in ongoing efforts to merge phylogenetics and epidemiology.
Project description:Population genetic modeling can enhance Bayesian phylogenetic inference by providing a realistic prior on the distribution of branch lengths and times of common ancestry. The parameters of a population genetic model may also have intrinsic importance, and simultaneous estimation of a phylogeny and model parameters has enabled phylodynamic inference of population growth rates, reproduction numbers, and effective population size through time. Phylodynamic inference based on pathogen genetic sequence data has emerged as useful supplement to epidemic surveillance, however commonly-used mechanistic models that are typically fitted to non-genetic surveillance data are rarely fitted to pathogen genetic data due to a dearth of software tools, and the theory required to conduct such inference has been developed only recently. We present a framework for coalescent-based phylogenetic and phylodynamic inference which enables highly-flexible modeling of demographic and epidemiological processes. This approach builds upon previous structured coalescent approaches and includes enhancements for computational speed, accuracy, and stability. A flexible markup language is described for translating parametric demographic or epidemiological models into a structured coalescent model enabling simultaneous estimation of demographic or epidemiological parameters and time-scaled phylogenies. We demonstrate the utility of these approaches by fitting compartmental epidemiological models to Ebola virus and Influenza A virus sequence data, demonstrating how important features of these epidemics, such as the reproduction number and epidemic curves, can be gleaned from genetic data. These approaches are provided as an open-source package PhyDyn for the BEAST2 phylogenetics platform.
Project description:Transmission events are the fundamental building blocks of the dynamics of any infectious disease. Much about the epidemiology of a disease can be learned when these individual transmission events are known or can be estimated. Such estimations are difficult and generally feasible only when detailed epidemiological data are available. The genealogy estimated from genetic sequences of sampled pathogens is another rich source of information on transmission history. Optimal inference of transmission events calls for the combination of genetic data and epidemiological data into one joint analysis. A key difficulty is that the transmission tree, which describes the transmission events between infected hosts, differs from the phylogenetic tree, which describes the ancestral relationships between pathogens sampled from these hosts. The trees differ both in timing of the internal nodes and in topology. These differences become more pronounced when a higher fraction of infected hosts is sampled. We show how the phylogenetic tree of sampled pathogens is related to the transmission tree of an outbreak of an infectious disease, by the within-host dynamics of pathogens. We provide a statistical framework to infer key epidemiological and mutational parameters by simultaneously estimating the phylogenetic tree and the transmission tree. We test the approach using simulations and illustrate its use on an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. The approach unifies existing methods in the emerging field of phylodynamics with transmission tree reconstruction methods that are used in infectious disease epidemiology.
Project description:There is growing interest in avian influenza (AI) epidemiology to predict disease risk in wild and domestic birds, and prevent transmission to humans. However, understanding the epidemic dynamics of highly pathogenic (HPAI) viruses remains challenging because they have rarely been detected in wild birds. We used modeling to integrate available scientific information from laboratory and field studies, evaluate AI dynamics in individual hosts and waterfowl populations, and identify key areas for future research. We developed a Susceptible-Exposed-Infectious-Recovered (SEIR) model and used published laboratory challenge studies to estimate epidemiological parameters (rate of infection, latency period, recovery and mortality rates), considering the importance of age classes, and virus pathogenicity. Infectious contact leads to infection and virus shedding within 1-2 days, followed by relatively slower period for recovery or mortality. We found a shorter infectious period for HPAI than low pathogenic (LP) AI, which may explain that HPAI has been much harder to detect than LPAI during surveillance programs. Our model predicted a rapid LPAI epidemic curve, with a median duration of infection of 50-60 days and no fatalities. In contrast, HPAI dynamics had lower prevalence and higher mortality, especially in young birds. Based on field data from LPAI studies, our model suggests to increase surveillance for HPAI in post-breeding areas, because the presence of immunologically naïve young birds is predicted to cause higher HPAI prevalence and bird losses during this season. Our results indicate a better understanding of the transmission, infection, and immunity-related processes is required to refine predictions of AI risk and spread, improve surveillance for HPAI in wild birds, and develop disease control strategies to reduce potential transmission to domestic birds and/or humans.
Project description:Exploiting pathogen genomes to reconstruct transmission represents a powerful tool in the fight against infectious disease. However, their interpretation rests on a number of simplifying assumptions that regularly ignore important complexities of real data, in particular within-host evolution and non-sampled patients. Here we propose a new approach to transmission inference called SCOTTI (Structured COalescent Transmission Tree Inference). This method is based on a statistical framework that models each host as a distinct population, and transmissions between hosts as migration events. Our computationally efficient implementation of this model enables the inference of host-to-host transmission while accommodating within-host evolution and non-sampled hosts. SCOTTI is distributed as an open source package for the phylogenetic software BEAST2. We show that SCOTTI can generally infer transmission events even in the presence of considerable within-host variation, can account for the uncertainty associated with the possible presence of non-sampled hosts, and can efficiently use data from multiple samples of the same host, although there is some reduction in accuracy when samples are collected very close to the infection time. We illustrate the features of our approach by investigating transmission from genetic and epidemiological data in a Foot and Mouth Disease Virus (FMDV) veterinary outbreak in England and a Klebsiella pneumoniae outbreak in a Nepali neonatal unit. Transmission histories inferred with SCOTTI will be important in devising effective measures to prevent and halt transmission.
Project description:The ability of influenza A viruses (IAVs) to cross species barriers and evade host immunity is a major public health concern. Studies on the phylodynamics of IAVs across different scales - from the individual to the population - are essential for devising effective measures to predict, prevent or contain influenza emergence. Understanding how IAVs spread and evolve during outbreaks is critical for the management of epidemics. Reconstructing the transmission network during a single outbreak by sampling viral genetic data in time and space can generate insights about these processes. Here, we obtained intra-host viral sequence data from horses infected with equine influenza virus (EIV) to reconstruct the spread of EIV during a large outbreak. To this end, we analyzed within-host viral populations from sequences covering 90% of the infected yards. By combining gene sequence analyses with epidemiological data, we inferred a plausible transmission network, in turn enabling the comparison of transmission patterns during the course of the outbreak and revealing important epidemiological features that were not apparent using either approach alone. The EIV populations displayed high levels of genetic diversity, and in many cases we observed distinct viral populations containing a dominant variant and a number of related minor variants that were transmitted between infectious horses. In addition, we found evidence of frequent mixed infections and loose transmission bottlenecks in these naturally occurring populations. These frequent mixed infections likely influence the size of epidemics.
Project description:Measles is a highly infectious, severe viral disease. The disease is targeted for global eradication; however, this result has proven challenging. In China, where countrywide vaccination coverage for the last decade has been above 95% (the threshold for measles elimination), measles continues to cause large epidemics. To diagnose factors contributing to the persistency of measles, here we develop a model-inference system to infer measles transmission dynamics in China. The model-inference system uses demographic and vaccination data for each year as model inputs to directly account for changing population dynamics (including births, deaths, migrations, and vaccination). In addition, it simultaneously estimates unobserved model variables and parameters based on incidence data. When fitted to yearly incidence data for the entire population, it is able to accurately estimate independent, out-of-sample age-specific incidence. Using this validated model-inference system, we are thus able to estimate epidemiological and demographical characteristics key to measles transmission during 1951-2004 for three key locations in China, including its capital Beijing. These characteristics include age-specific population susceptibility and incidence rates, the basic reproductive number (R0), reporting rate, population mixing intensity, and amplitude of seasonality. Key differences among the three sites reveal population and epidemiological characteristics crucial for understanding the current persistence of measles epidemics in China. We also discuss the implications our findings have for future elimination strategies.
Project description:Influenza epidemics cause substantial morbidity and mortality every year worldwide. Currently, two influenza A subtypes, A(H1N1) and A(H3N2), and type B viruses co-circulate in humans and infection with one type/subtype could provide cross-protection against the others. However, it remains unclear how such ecologic competition via cross-immunity and antigenic mutations that allow immune escape impact influenza epidemic dynamics at the population level. Here we develop a comprehensive model-inference system and apply it to study the evolutionary and epidemiological dynamics of the three influenza types/subtypes in Hong Kong, a city of global public health significance for influenza epidemic and pandemic control. Utilizing long-term influenza surveillance data since 1998, we are able to estimate the strength of cross-immunity between each virus-pairs, the timing and frequency of punctuated changes in population immunity in response to antigenic mutations in influenza viruses, and key epidemiological parameters over the last 20 years including the 2009 pandemic. We find evidence of cross-immunity in all types/subtypes, with strongest cross-immunity from A(H1N1) against A(H3N2). Our results also suggest that A(H3N2) may undergo antigenic mutations in both summers and winters and thus monitoring the virus in both seasons may be important for vaccine development. Overall, our study reveals intricate epidemiological interactions and underscores the importance of simultaneous monitoring of population immunity, incidence rates, and viral genetic and antigenic changes.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Fast changes in human demographics worldwide, coupled with increased mobility, and modified land uses make the threat of emerging infectious diseases increasingly important. Currently there is worldwide alert for H5N1 avian influenza becoming as transmissible in humans as seasonal influenza, and potentially causing a pandemic of unprecedented proportions. Here we show how epidemiological surveillance data for emerging infectious diseases can be interpreted in real time to assess changes in transmissibility with quantified uncertainty, and to perform running time predictions of new cases and guide logistics allocations. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We develop an extension of standard epidemiological models, appropriate for emerging infectious diseases, that describes the probabilistic progression of case numbers due to the concurrent effects of (incipient) human transmission and multiple introductions from a reservoir. The model is cast in terms of surveillance observables and immediately suggests a simple graphical estimation procedure for the effective reproductive number R (mean number of cases generated by an infectious individual) of standard epidemics. For emerging infectious diseases, which typically show large relative case number fluctuations over time, we develop a bayesian scheme for real time estimation of the probability distribution of the effective reproduction number and show how to use such inferences to formulate significance tests on future epidemiological observations. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Violations of these significance tests define statistical anomalies that may signal changes in the epidemiology of emerging diseases and should trigger further field investigation. We apply the methodology to case data from World Health Organization reports to place bounds on the current transmissibility of H5N1 influenza in humans and establish a statistical basis for monitoring its evolution in real time.