It's simple: increasing complexity of models does not necessarily increase their accuracy

July 19, 2011, BioMed Central

Mathematical modeling of infectious diseases is an important tool in the understanding and prediction of epidemics. Knowledge of social interactions is used to understand how infectious diseases spread through populations and how to control epidemics. New research published in BMC Medicine shows that a model, which included dynamic information about the heterogeneity of contact length and rate of making new contacts, was as effective as a more complex model which included the order of contacts.

Data was collected over a two-day period, within the Socio Patterns project, which brings together researchers from Turin (Italy), Marseilles and Lyon (France). 405 people attending the 2009 Annual French Conference on Nosocomial Infections volunteered to wear radiofrequency identification device () which recorded face to face contacts (within a distance of 1-2m). Each day researchers recorded the number and duration of meetings between participants. Nearly 30,000 social contacts were recorded over the two days of the conference allowing dynamic networks to be constructed.

Three aggregations of this data set were used in a SEIR (Susceptible, Exposed, Infectious, Recovered) model of infection. The first (DYN) utilized dynamic and time-order specific data, the second (HET) retained of contacts but not the order of interactions, and the third (HOM) assumed that all interactions were random, homogeneous, and of the same length.

While it might be assumed that knowing the precise order of social contacts may help refine the model, the results from the first two scenarios, DYN and HET, were very similar producing a comparable number of infected individuals and taking the same time to reach peak infection. However, without enough data, the simplest scenario, HOM, estimated a larger number of infected people and therefore a more severe .

Dr Juliette Stehlé from Université de Marseilles concluded, "Adding real life data about the movement of people within social situations is important in refining computational models of how disease is spread. Our results have important implications for understanding the level of detail required needed to produce functional models and better models lead in turn to better anticipation, prevention, and management of emerging infection and epidemics."

More information: Simulation of an SEIR infectious disease model on the dynamic contact network of conference attendees, Juliette Stehle, Nicolas Voirin, Alain Barrat, Ciro Cattuto, Vittoria Colizza, Lorenzo Isella, Corinne Régis, Jean-Francois Pinton, Nagham Khanafer, Wouter Van den Broeck and Philippe Vanhems, BMC Medicine (in press)

Commentary: The importance of including dynamic social networks when modeling epidemics of airborne infections: does increasing complexity increase accuracy? Sally Blower and Myong-Hyun Go, BMC Medicine (in press)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers illustrate how muscle growth inhibitor is activated, could aid in treating ALS

January 19, 2018
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine are part of an international team that has identified how the inactive or latent form of GDF8, a signaling protein also known as myostatin responsible for ...

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.