School of Mathematics and Statistics - Research Publications

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    Turnover of Village Chickens Undermines Vaccine Coverage to Control HPAI H5N1
    Villanueva-Cabezas, JP ; Campbell, PT ; McCaw, JM ; Durr, PA ; McVernon, J (WILEY, 2017-02-01)
    Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) subtype H5N1 remains an enzootic disease of village chickens in Indonesia, posing ongoing risk at the animal-human interface. Previous modelling showed that the fast natural turnover of chicken populations might undermine herd immunity after vaccination, although actual details of how this effect applies to Indonesia's village chicken population have not been determined. We explored the turnover effect in Indonesia's scavenging and mixed populations of village chickens using an extended Leslie matrix model parameterized with data collected from village chicken flocks in Java region, Indonesia. Population dynamics were simulated for 208 weeks; the turnover effect was simulated for 16 weeks after vaccination in two 'best case' scenarios, where the whole population (scenario 1), or birds aged over 14 days (scenario 2), were vaccinated. We found that the scavenging and mixed populations have different productive traits. When steady-state dynamics are reached, both populations are dominated by females (54.5%), and 'growers' and 'chicks' represent the most abundant age stages with 39% and 38% in the scavenging, and 60% and 25% in the mixed population, respectively. Simulations showed that the population turnover might reduce the herd immunity below the critical threshold that prevents the re-emergence of HPAI H5N1 4-8 weeks (scavenging) and 6-9 weeks (mixed population) after vaccination in scenario 1, and 2-6 weeks (scavenging) and 4-7 weeks (mixed population) after vaccination in scenario 2. In conclusion, we found that Indonesia's village chicken population does not have a unique underlying population dynamic and therefore, different turnover effects on herd immunity may be expected after vaccination; nonetheless, our simulations carried out in best case scenarios highlight the limitations of current vaccine technologies to control HPAI H5N1. This suggests that the improvements and complementary strategies are necessary and must be explored.
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    Pandemic controllability: a concept to guide a proportionate and flexible operational response to future influenza pandemics
    McCaw, JM ; Glass, K ; Mercer, GN ; McVernon, J (OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2014-03-01)
    The 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic posed challenges for governments worldwide. Strategies designed to limit community transmission, such as antiviral deployment, were largely ineffective due to both feasibility constraints and the generally mild nature of disease, resulting in incomplete case ascertainment. Reviews of national pandemic plans have identified pandemic impact, primarily linked to measures of transmissibility and severity, as a key concept to incorporate into the next generation of plans. While an assessment of impact provides the rationale under which interventions may be warranted, it does not directly provide an assessment on whether particular interventions may be effective. Such considerations motivate our introduction of the concept of pandemic controllability. For case-targeted interventions, such as antiviral treatment and post-exposure prophylaxis, we identify the visibility and transmissibility of a pandemic as the key drivers of controllability. Taking a case-study approach, we suggest that high-impact pandemics, for which control is most desirable, are likely uncontrollable with case-targeted interventions. Strategies that do not rely on the identification of cases may prove relatively more effective. By introducing a pragmatic framework for relating the assessment of impact to the ability to mitigate an epidemic (controllability), we hope to address a present omission identified in pandemic response plans.
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    A Mathematical Framework for Estimating Pathogen Transmission Fitness and Inoculum Size Using Data from a Competitive Mixtures Animal Model
    McCaw, JM ; Arinaminpathy, N ; Hurt, AC ; McVernon, J ; McLean, AR ; Fraser, C (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2011-04-01)
    We present a method to measure the relative transmissibility ("transmission fitness") of one strain of a pathogen compared to another. The model is applied to data from "competitive mixtures" experiments in which animals are co-infected with a mixture of two strains. We observe the mixture in each animal over time and over multiple generations of transmission. We use data from influenza experiments in ferrets to demonstrate the approach. Assessment of the relative transmissibility between two strains of influenza is important in at least three contexts: 1) Within the human population antigenically novel strains of influenza arise and compete for susceptible hosts. 2) During a pandemic event, a novel sub-type of influenza competes with the existing seasonal strain(s). The unfolding epidemiological dynamics are dependent upon both the population's susceptibility profile and the inherent transmissibility of the novel strain compared to the existing strain(s). 3) Neuraminidase inhibitors (NAIs), while providing significant potential to reduce transmission of influenza, exert selective pressure on the virus and so promote the emergence of drug-resistant strains. Any adverse outcome due to selection and subsequent spread of an NAI-resistant strain is exquisitely dependent upon the transmission fitness of that strain. Measurement of the transmission fitness of two competing strains of influenza is thus of critical importance in determining the likely time-course and epidemiology of an influenza outbreak, or the potential impact of an intervention measure such as NAI distribution. The mathematical framework introduced here also provides an estimate for the size of the transmitted inoculum. We demonstrate the framework's behaviour using data from ferret transmission studies, and through simulation suggest how to optimise experimental design for assessment of transmissibility. The method introduced here for assessment of mixed transmission events has applicability beyond influenza, to other viral and bacterial pathogens.
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    Household transmission of respiratory viruses - assessment of viral, individual and household characteristics in a population study of healthy Australian adults
    McCaw, JM ; Howard, PF ; Richmond, PC ; Nissen, M ; Sloots, T ; Lambert, SB ; Lai, M ; Greenberg, M ; Nolan, T ; McVernon, J (BMC, 2012-12-11)
    BACKGROUND: Household transmission of influenza-like illness (ILI) may vary with viral and demographic characteristics. We examined the effect of these factors in a population-based sample of adults with ILI. METHODS: We conducted a prospective cohort study in community-dwelling Australian adults nested within an influenza vaccine effectiveness trial. On presentation with ILI, participants were swabbed for a range of respiratory viruses and asked to return a questionnaire collecting details of household members with or without similar symptoms. We used logistic and Poisson regression to assess the key characteristics of household transmission. RESULTS: 258 participants from multi-occupancy households experienced 279 ILI episodes and returned a questionnaire. Of these, 183 were the primary case in the household allowing assessment of factors associated with transmission. Transmission was significantly associated in univariate analyses with female sex (27% vs. 13%, risk ratio (RR) = 2.13 (1.08, 4.21)) and the presence of a child in the house (33% vs. 17%, RR = 1.90 (1.11, 3.26)). The secondary household attack proportion (SHAP) was 0.14, higher if influenza was isolated (RR = 2.1 (1.0, 4.5)). Vaccinated participants who nonetheless became infected with influenza had a higher SHAP (Incidence RR = 5.24 (2.17, 12.6)). CONCLUSIONS: The increased SHAP in households of vaccinated participants who nonetheless had confirmed influenza infection supports the hypothesis that in years of vaccine mismatch, not only is influenza vaccine less protective for the vaccine recipient, but that the population's immunity is also lower.
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    Prior immunity helps to explain wave-like behaviour of pandemic influenza in 1918-9
    Mathews, JD ; McBryde, ES ; McVernon, J ; Pallaghy, PK ; McCaw, JM (BMC, 2010-05-25)
    BACKGROUND: The ecology of influenza may be more complex than is usually assumed. For example, despite multiple waves in the influenza pandemic of 1918-19, many people in urban locations were apparently unaffected. Were they unexposed, or protected by pre-existing cross-immunity in the first wave, by acquired immunity in later waves, or were their infections asymptomatic? METHODS: We modelled all these possibilities to estimate parameters to best explain patterns of repeat attacks in 24,706 individuals potentially exposed to summer, autumn and winter waves in 12 English populations during the 1918-9 pandemic. RESULTS: Before the summer wave, we estimated that only 52% of persons (95% credibility estimates 41-66%) were susceptible, with the remainder protected by prior immunity. Most people were exposed, as virus transmissibility was high with R0 credibility estimates of 3.10-6.74. Because of prior immunity, estimates of effective R at the start of the summer wave were lower at 1.57-3.96. Only 25-66% of exposed and susceptible persons reported symptoms. After each wave, 33-65% of protected persons became susceptible again before the next wave through waning immunity or antigenic drift. Estimated rates of prior immunity were less in younger populations (19-59%) than in adult populations (38-66%), and tended to lapse more frequently in the young (49-92%) than in adults (34-76%). CONCLUSIONS: Our model for pandemic influenza in 1918-9 suggests that pre-existing immune protection, presumably induced by prior exposure to seasonal influenza, may have limited the pandemic attack-rate in urban populations, while the waning of that protection likely contributed to recurrence of pandemic waves in exposed cities. In contrast, in isolated populations, pandemic attack rates in 1918-9 were much higher than in cities, presumably because prior immunity was less in populations with infrequent prior exposure to seasonal influenza. Although these conclusions cannot be verified by direct measurements of historical immune mechanisms, our modelling inferences from 1918-9 suggest that the spread of the influenza A (H1N1) 2009 pandemic has also been limited by immunity from prior exposure to seasonal influenza. Components of that immunity, which are measurable, may be short-lived, and not necessarily correlated with levels of HI antibody.
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    Comparison of three methods for ascertainment of contact information relevant to respiratory pathogen transmission in encounter networks
    McCaw, JM ; Forbes, K ; Nathan, PM ; Pattison, PE ; Robins, GL ; Nolan, TM ; McVernon, J (BMC, 2010-06-10)
    BACKGROUND: Mathematical models of infection that consider targeted interventions are exquisitely dependent on the assumed mixing patterns of the population. We report on a pilot study designed to assess three different methods (one retrospective, two prospective) for obtaining contact data relevant to the determination of these mixing patterns. METHODS: 65 adults were asked to record their social encounters in each location visited during 6 study days using a novel method whereby a change in physical location of the study participant triggered data entry. Using a cross-over design, all participants recorded encounters on 3 days in a paper diary and 3 days using an electronic recording device (PDA). Participants were randomised to first prospective recording method. RESULTS: Both methods captured more contacts than a pre-study questionnaire, but ascertainment using the paper diary was superior to the PDA (mean difference: 4.52 (95% CI 0.28, 8.77). Paper diaries were found more acceptable to the participants compared with the PDA. Statistical analysis confirms that our results are broadly consistent with those reported from large-scale European based surveys. An association between household size (trend 0.14, 95% CI (0.06, 0.22), P < 0.001) and composition (presence of child 0.37, 95% CI (0.17, 0.56), P < 0.001) and the total number of reported contacts was observed, highlighting the importance of sampling study populations based on household characteristics as well as age. New contacts were still being recorded on the third study day, but compliance had declined, indicating that the optimal number of sample days represents a trade-off between completeness and quality of data for an individual. CONCLUSIONS: The study's location-based reporting design allows greater scope compared to other methods for examining differences in the characteristics of encounters over a range of environments. Improved parameterisation of dynamic transmission models gained from work of this type will aid in the development of more robust decision support tools to assist health policy makers and planners.
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    Diagnosis and Antiviral Intervention Strategies for Mitigating an Influenza Epidemic
    Moss, R ; McCaw, JM ; McVernon, J ; Davis, CT (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2011-02-04)
    BACKGROUND: Many countries have amassed antiviral stockpiles for pandemic preparedness. Despite extensive trial data and modelling studies, it remains unclear how to make optimal use of antiviral stockpiles within the constraints of healthcare infrastructure. Modelling studies informed recommendations for liberal antiviral distribution in the pandemic phase, primarily to prevent infection, but failed to account for logistical constraints clearly evident during the 2009 H1N1 outbreaks. Here we identify optimal delivery strategies for antiviral interventions accounting for logistical constraints, and so determine how to improve a strategy's impact. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We extend an existing SEIR model to incorporate finite diagnostic and antiviral distribution capacities. We evaluate the impact of using different diagnostic strategies to decide to whom antivirals are delivered. We then determine what additional capacity is required to achieve optimal impact. We identify the importance of sensitive and specific case ascertainment in the early phase of a pandemic response, when the proportion of false-positive presentations may be high. Once a substantial percentage of ILI presentations are caused by the pandemic strain, identification of cases for treatment on syndromic grounds alone results in a greater potential impact than a laboratory-dependent strategy. Our findings reinforce the need for a decentralised system capable of providing timely prophylaxis. CONCLUSIONS: We address specific real-world issues that must be considered in order to improve pandemic preparedness policy in a practical and methodologically sound way. Provision of antivirals on the scale proposed for an effective response is infeasible using traditional public health outbreak management and contact tracing approaches. The results indicate to change the transmission dynamics of an influenza epidemic with an antiviral intervention, a decentralised system is required for contact identification and prophylaxis delivery, utilising a range of existing services and infrastructure in a "whole of society" response.
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    Likely effectiveness of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions for mitigating influenza virus transmission in Mongolia
    Bolton, KJ ; McCaw, JM ; Moss, R ; Morris, RS ; Wang, S ; Burma, A ; Darma, B ; Narangerel, D ; Nymadawa, P ; McVernon, J (WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, 2012-04-01)
    OBJECTIVE: To assess the likely benefit of the interventions under consideration for use in Mongolia during future influenza pandemics. METHODS: A stochastic, compartmental patch model of susceptibility, exposure, infection and recovery was constructed to capture the key effects of several interventions--travel restrictions, school closure, generalized social distancing, quarantining of close contacts, treatment of cases with antivirals and prophylaxis of contacts--on the dynamics of influenza epidemics. The likely benefit and optimal timing and duration of each of these interventions were assessed using Latin-hypercube sampling techniques, averaging across many possible transmission and social mixing parameters. FINDINGS: Timely interventions could substantially alter the time-course and reduce the severity of pandemic influenza in Mongolia. In a moderate pandemic scenario, early social distancing measures decreased the mean attack rate from around 10% to 7-8%. Similarly, in a severe pandemic scenario such measures cut the mean attack rate from approximately 23% to 21%. In both moderate and severe pandemic scenarios, a suite of non-pharmaceutical interventions proved as effective as the targeted use of antivirals. Targeted antiviral campaigns generally appeared more effective in severe pandemic scenarios than in moderate pandemic scenarios. CONCLUSION: A mathematical model of pandemic influenza transmission in Mongolia indicated that, to be successful, interventions to prevent transmission must be triggered when the first cases are detected in border regions. If social distancing measures are introduced at this stage and implemented over several weeks, they may have a notable mitigating impact. In low-income regions such as Mongolia, social distancing may be more effective than the large-scale use of antivirals.
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    Reducing disease burden in an influenza pandemic by targeted delivery of neuraminidase inhibitors: mathematical models in the Australian context
    Moss, R ; McCaw, JM ; Cheng, AC ; Hurt, AC ; McVernon, J (BMC, 2016-10-10)
    BACKGROUND: Many nations maintain stockpiles of neuraminidase inhibitor (NAI) antiviral agents for use in influenza pandemics to reduce transmission and mitigate the course of clinical infection. Pandemic preparedness plans include the use of these stockpiles to deliver proportionate responses, informed by emerging evidence of clinical impact. Recent uncertainty about the effectiveness of NAIs has prompted these nations to reconsider the role of NAIs in pandemic response, with implications for pandemic planning and for NAI stockpile size. METHODS: We combined a dynamic model of influenza epidemiology with a model of the clinical care pathways in the Australian health care system to identify effective NAI strategies for reducing morbidity and mortality in pandemic events, and the stockpile requirements for these strategies. The models were informed by a 2015 assessment of NAI effectiveness against susceptibility, pathogenicity, and transmission of influenza. RESULTS: Liberal distribution of NAIs for early treatment in outpatient settings yielded the greatest benefits in all of the considered scenarios. Restriction of community-based treatment to risk groups was effective in those groups, but failed to prevent the large proportion of cases arising from lower risk individuals who comprise the majority of the population. CONCLUSIONS: These targeted strategies are only effective if they can be deployed within the constraints of existing health care infrastructure. This finding highlights the critical importance of identifying optimal models of care delivery for effective emergency health care response.
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    Epidemic forecasts as a tool for public health: interpretation and (re)calibration
    Moss, R ; Fielding, JE ; Franklin, LJ ; Stephens, N ; McVernon, J ; Dawson, P ; McCaw, JM (WILEY, 2018-02-01)
    OBJECTIVE: Recent studies have used Bayesian methods to predict timing of influenza epidemics many weeks in advance, but there is no documented evaluation of how such forecasts might support the day-to-day operations of public health staff. METHODS: During the 2015 influenza season in Melbourne, Australia, weekly forecasts were presented at Health Department surveillance unit meetings, where they were evaluated and updated in light of expert opinion to improve their accuracy and usefulness. RESULTS: Predictive capacity of the model was substantially limited by delays in reporting and processing arising from an unprecedented number of notifications, disproportionate to seasonal intensity. Adjustment of the predictive algorithm to account for these delays and increased reporting propensity improved both current situational awareness and forecasting accuracy. CONCLUSIONS: Collaborative engagement with public health practitioners in model development improved understanding of the context and limitations of emerging surveillance data. Incorporation of these insights in a quantitative model resulted in more robust estimates of disease activity for public health use. Implications for public health: In addition to predicting future disease trends, forecasting methods can quantify the impact of delays in data availability and variable reporting practice on the accuracy of current epidemic assessment. Such evidence supports investment in systems capacity.