SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2016

Scientists develop mathematical model for zoonotic disease transmission

Scientists from the United Kingdom and the United States recently developed a new mathematical disease model that can produce transmissibility estimates for emerging zoonotic diseases like the swine flu.

Simon Cauchemez and colleagues from Imperial College London and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed the tool to better evaluate the potential pandemic threat posed by swine flu. Previously, transmissibility estimates were derived from detailed outbreak investigations which can be resource intensive and subject to bias, MedicalNewsToday.com reports.

In a study published in PLOS Medicine, the authors developed a method to use limited data to derive unbiased estimates of transmissibility. The mathematical model uses data from standard case investigations, including the proportion of cases infected by the natural reservoir, to estimate the pandemic potential of a zoonotic virus. The scientists applied the new approach to assess human-to-human transmissibility of H1N1v, H1N2v and H3N2v, Nipah virus and Vibrio cholerae.

The study demonstrated the applicability of the novel approach during zoonotic and certain non-zoonotic outbreaks in estimating the number of individuals infected by a case.

The new model may impact public health policy because of the large numbers of people that could possibly be infected by emerging diseases. Zoonotic viruses primarily cause occasional infections in human populations because the pathogens are poorly adapted for sustaining human-to-human transmission, though the viruses are under strong selective pressure to adapt for transmitting to humans, according to MedicalNewsToday.com.