Causal inference with interference is a rapidly growing area. The literature has begun to relax the “no-interference” assumption that the treatment received by one individual does not affect the outcomes of other individuals. In this paper we briefly review the literature on causal inference in the presence of interference when treatments have been randomized. We then consider settings in which causal effects in the presence of interference are not identified, either because randomization alone does not suffice for identification, or because treatment is not randomized and there may be unmeasured confounders of the treatment-outcome relationship. We develop sensitivity analysis techniques for these settings. We describe several sensitivity analysis techniques for the infectiousness effect which, in a vaccine trial, captures the effect of the vaccine of one person on protecting a second person from infection even if the first is infected. We also develop two sensitivity analysis techniques for causal effects in the presence of unmeasured confounding which generalize analogous techniques when interference is absent. These two techniques for unmeasured confounding are compared and contrasted.
doi:10.1214/14-STS479
PMCID: PMC4300555
PMID: 25620841
Causal inference; infectiousness effect; interference; sensitivity analysis; spillover effect; stable unit treatment value assumption; vaccine trial
Tran, Cuc H. | Sugimoto, Jonathan D. | Pulliam, Juliet R. C. | Ryan, Kathleen A. | Myers, Paul D. | Castleman, Joan B. | Doty, Randell | Johnson, Jackie | Stringfellow, Jim | Kovacevich, Nadia | Brew, Joe | Cheung, Lai Ling | Caron, Brad | Lipori, Gloria | Harle, Christopher A. | Alexander, Charles | Yang, Yang | Longini, Ira M. | Halloran, M. Elizabeth | Morris, J. Glenn | Small, Parker A.
Background
School-located influenza vaccination (SLIV) programs can substantially enhance the sub-optimal coverage achieved under existing delivery strategies. Randomized SLIV trials have shown these programs reduce laboratory-confirmed influenza among both vaccinated and unvaccinated children. This work explores the effectiveness of a SLIV program in reducing the community risk of influenza and influenza-like illness (ILI) associated emergency care visits.
Methods
For the 2011/12 and 2012/13 influenza seasons, we estimated age-group specific attack rates (AR) for ILI from routine surveillance and census data. Age-group specific SLIV program effectiveness was estimated as one minus the AR ratio for Alachua County versus two comparison regions: the 12 county region surrounding Alachua County, and all non-Alachua counties in Florida.
Results
Vaccination of ∼50% of 5–17 year-olds in Alachua reduced their risk of ILI-associated visits, compared to the rest of Florida, by 79% (95% confidence interval: 70, 85) in 2011/12 and 71% (63, 77) in 2012/13. The greatest indirect effectiveness was observed among 0–4 year-olds, reducing AR by 89% (84, 93) in 2011/12 and 84% (79, 88) in 2012/13. Among all non-school age residents, the estimated indirect effectiveness was 60% (54, 65) and 36% (31, 41) for 2011/12 and 2012/13. The overall effectiveness among all age-groups was 65% (61, 70) and 46% (42, 50) for 2011/12 and 2012/13.
Conclusion
Wider implementation of SLIV programs can significantly reduce the influenza-associated public health burden in communities.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0114479
PMCID: PMC4260868
PMID: 25489850
Background
Killed, oral cholera vaccines have proven safe and effective, and several large-scale mass cholera vaccination efforts have demonstrated the feasibility of widespread deployment. This study uses a mathematical model of cholera transmission in Bangladesh to examine the effectiveness of potential vaccination strategies.
Methods & Findings
We developed an age-structured mathematical model of cholera transmission and calibrated it to reproduce the dynamics of cholera in Matlab, Bangladesh. We used the model to predict the effectiveness of different cholera vaccination strategies over a period of 20 years. We explored vaccination programs that targeted one of three increasingly focused age groups (the entire vaccine-eligible population of age one year and older, children of ages 1 to 14 years, or preschoolers of ages 1 to 4 years) and that could occur either as campaigns recurring every five years or as continuous ongoing vaccination efforts. Our modeling results suggest that vaccinating 70% of the population would avert 90% of cholera cases in the first year but that campaign and continuous vaccination strategies differ in effectiveness over 20 years. Maintaining 70% coverage of the population would be sufficient to prevent sustained transmission of endemic cholera in Matlab, while vaccinating periodically every five years is less effective. Selectively vaccinating children 1–14 years old would prevent the most cholera cases per vaccine administered in both campaign and continuous strategies.
Conclusions
We conclude that continuous mass vaccination would be more effective against endemic cholera than periodic campaigns. Vaccinating children averts more cases per dose than vaccinating all age groups, although vaccinating only children is unlikely to control endemic cholera in Bangladesh. Careful consideration must be made before generalizing these results to other regions.
Author Summary
Bangladesh has a high burden of cholera and may become the first country to use cholera vaccine on a large scale. Mass cholera vaccination may be hard to justify to international funding agencies because of the modest efficacy of existing vaccines and their limited duration of protection. However, mass cholera vaccination can induce high levels of indirect protection in a population, i.e., protecting even unvaccinated individuals by lowering cholera incidence, and a case for cost-effective cholera vaccination could be made. Mathematical modeling is one way to predict the magnitude of indirect protection conferred by a proposed vaccination program. Here, we predict the effectiveness of various mass cholera vaccination strategies in Bangladesh using a mathematical model. We found that maintaining high levels of vaccination coverage in children could be very effective in reducing the burden of cholera, and secondary transmission of cholera would virtually stop when 70% of the population is vaccinated. Mathematical modeling may play a key role in planning widespread cholera vaccination efforts in Bangladesh and other countries.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0003343
PMCID: PMC4256212
PMID: 25473851
Sugimoto, Jonathan D. | Koepke, Amanda A. | Kenah, Eben E. | Halloran, M. Elizabeth | Chowdhury, Fahima | Khan, Ashraful I. | LaRocque, Regina C. | Yang, Yang | Ryan, Edward T. | Qadri, Firdausi | Calderwood, Stephen B. | Harris, Jason B. | Longini, Ira M.
Background
Vibrio cholerae infections cluster in households. This study's objective was to quantify the relative contribution of direct, within-household exposure (for example, via contamination of household food, water, or surfaces) to endemic cholera transmission. Quantifying the relative contribution of direct exposure is important for planning effective prevention and control measures.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Symptom histories and multiple blood and fecal specimens were prospectively collected from household members of hospital-ascertained cholera cases in Bangladesh from 2001–2006. We estimated the probabilities of cholera transmission through 1) direct exposure within the household and 2) contact with community-based sources of infection. The natural history of cholera infection and covariate effects on transmission were considered. Significant direct transmission (p-value<0.0001) occurred among 1414 members of 364 households. Fecal shedding of O1 El Tor Ogawa was associated with a 4.9% (95% confidence interval: 0.9%–22.8%) risk of infection among household contacts through direct exposure during an 11-day infectious period (mean length). The estimated 11-day risk of O1 El Tor Ogawa infection through exposure to community-based sources was 2.5% (0.8%–8.0%). The corresponding estimated risks for O1 El Tor Inaba and O139 infection were 3.7% (0.7%–16.6%) and 8.2% (2.1%–27.1%) through direct exposure, and 3.4% (1.7%–6.7%) and 2.0% (0.5%–7.3%) through community-based exposure. Children under 5 years-old were at elevated risk of infection. Limitations of the study may have led to an underestimation of the true risk of cholera infection. For instance, available covariate data may have incompletely characterized levels of pre-existing immunity to cholera infection. Transmission via direct exposure occurring outside of the household was not considered.
Conclusions
Direct exposure contributes substantially to endemic transmission of symptomatic cholera in an urban setting. We provide the first estimate of the transmissibility of endemic cholera within prospectively-followed members of households. The role of direct transmission must be considered when planning cholera control activities.
Author Summary
Since John Snow's ground-breaking investigations of the devastating outbreaks in 19th-century London, cholera has been considered the quintessential waterborne human infection, transmitting via fecal contamination of environmental water sources. Recently, renewed interest has been paid to the potential importance of transmission through direct exposure within close-contact groups, such as, via fecal contamination of surfaces, food, or drinking water within households. Significant direct transmission of cholera within close contact groups would represent a new target for innovative prevention and control strategies. We estimated the probability of transmission 1) via direct contact within 364 urban households located in an endemic cholera setting (Dhaka, Bangladesh) and 2) via exposure to sources located outside of these households. In this setting we estimated a 4 to 8 percent probability of becoming infected with cholera via direct exposure within households in this setting versus a 2 to 3 percent likelihood of infection due to exposure to external sources over a comparable time period. Our results demonstrate that direct (within-household) transmission is a significant component of endemic cholera transmission, suggesting that biomedical and behavioral-modification interventions specifically targeting this mode of transmission could substantially reduce the cholera burden in this type of setting.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0003314
PMCID: PMC4238997
PMID: 25411971
PLoS Currents
2014;6:ecurrents.outbreaks.cd818f63d40e24aef769dda7df9e0da5.
Background: The 2014 West African Ebola Outbreak is so far the largest and deadliest recorded in history. The affected countries, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and Nigeria, have been struggling to contain and to mitigate the outbreak. The ongoing rise in confirmed and suspected cases, 2615 as of 20 August 2014, is considered to increase the risk of international dissemination, especially because the epidemic is now affecting cities with major commercial airports.
Method: We use the Global Epidemic and Mobility Model to generate stochastic, individual based simulations of epidemic spread worldwide, yielding, among other measures, the incidence and seeding events at a daily resolution for 3,362 subpopulations in 220 countries. The mobility model integrates daily airline passenger traffic worldwide and the disease model includes the community, hospital, and burial transmission dynamic. We use a multimodel inference approach calibrated on data from 6 July to the date of 9 August 2014. The estimates obtained were used to generate a 3-month ensemble forecast that provides quantitative estimates of the local transmission of Ebola virus disease in West Africa and the probability of international spread if the containment measures are not successful at curtailing the outbreak.
Results: We model the short-term growth rate of the disease in the affected West African countries and estimate the basic reproductive number to be in the range 1.5 − 2.0 (interval at the 1/10 relative likelihood). We simulated the international spreading of the outbreak and provide the estimate for the probability of Ebola virus disease case importation in countries across the world. Results indicate that the short-term (3 and 6 weeks) probability of international spread outside the African region is small, but not negligible. The extension of the outbreak is more likely occurring in African countries, increasing the risk of international dissemination on a longer time scale.
doi:10.1371/currents.outbreaks.cd818f63d40e24aef769dda7df9e0da5
PMCID: PMC4169359
PMID: 25642360
2014WA; disease model; disease outbreak; EVD; infectious disease
doi:10.1097/EDE.0b013e31826d0741
PMCID: PMC3482261
PMID: 23038122
Causal inference; infectious disease; infectiousness; interference; principal stratification; vaccine efficacy
If a vaccine does not protect individuals completely against infection, it could still reduce infectiousness of infected vaccinated individuals to others. Typically, vaccine efficacy for infectiousness is estimated based on contrasts between the transmission risk to susceptible individuals from infected vaccinated individuals compared with that from infected unvaccinated individuals. Such estimates are problematic, however, because they are subject to selection bias and do not have a causal interpretation. Here, we develop causal estimands for vaccine efficacy for infectiousness for four different scenarios of populations of transmission units of size two. These causal estimands incorporate both principal stratification, based on the joint potential infection outcomes under vaccine and control, and interference between individuals within transmission units. In the most general scenario, both individuals can be exposed to infection outside the transmission unit and both can be assigned either vaccine or control. The three other scenarios are special cases of the general scenario where only one individual is exposed outside the transmission unit or can be assigned vaccine. The causal estimands for vaccine efficacy for infectiousness are well defined only within certain principal strata and, in general, are identifiable only with strong unverifiable assumptions. Nonetheless, the observed data do provide some information, and we derive large sample bounds on the causal vaccine efficacy for infectiousness estimands. An example of the type of data observed in a study to estimate vaccine efficacy for infectiousness is analyzed in the causal inference framework we developed.
doi:10.2202/1557-4679.1354
PMCID: PMC3348179
PMID: 22499732
causal inference; principal stratification; interference; infectious disease; vaccine
Summary
Evaluating vaccine efficacy for protection against colonisation with bacterial pathogens is an area of growing interest. Colonisation of the nasopharynx is an asymptomatic carrier state responsible for person-to-person transmission. It differs from most clinical outcomes in that it is common, recurrent and observed only in its prevalent state. To estimate rates of acquisition and clearance of colonisation requires repeated active sampling of the same individuals over time, an expensive and invasive undertaking. Motivated by feasibility constraints in efficacy trials with colonisation endpoints, investigators have been estimating vaccine efficacy from cross-sectional studies without principled methods. We present two examples of vaccine studies estimating vaccine efficacy from cross-sectional data on nasopharyngeal colonisation by Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus). This study presents a framework for defining and estimating strain-specific and overall vaccine efficacy for susceptibility to acquisition of colonisation (VEacq) when there is a large number of strains with mutual interactions and recurrent dynamics of colonisation. We develop estimators based on one observation of the current status per study subject, evaluate their robustness, and re-analyse the two vaccine trials. Methodologically, the proposed estimators are closely related to case-control studies with prevalent cases, with appropriate consideration of the at-risk time in choosing the controls.
doi:10.1111/j.1541-0420.2012.01826.x
PMCID: PMC3622115
PMID: 23379663
Case-control studies; Multiple colonisation; Pneumococcus; Polyvalent vaccine; Recurrent infection; Risk-set sampling; Strain interaction; Vaccine efficacy
In a case-referent study, cases of disease are compared to non-cases with respect to their antecedent exposure to a treatment in an effort to determine whether exposure causes some cases of the disease. Because exposure is not randomly assigned in the population, as it would be if the population were a vast randomized trial, exposed and unexposed subjects may differ prior to exposure with respect to covariates that may or may not have been measured. After controlling for measured pre-exposure differences, for instance by matching, a sensitivity analysis asks about the magnitude of bias from unmeasured covariates that would need to be present to alter the conclusions of a study that presumed matching for observed covariates removes all bias. The definition of a case of disease affects sensitivity to unmeasured bias. We explore this issue using: (i) an asymptotic tool, the design sensitivity, (ii) a simulation for finite samples, and (iii) an example. Under favorable circumstances, a narrower case definition can yield an increase in the design sensitivity, and hence an increase in the power of a sensitivity analysis. Also, we discuss an adaptive method that seeks to discover the best case definition from the data at hand while controlling for multiple testing. An implementation in R is available as SensitivityCaseControl.
doi:10.1080/01621459.2013.820660
PMCID: PMC3904399
PMID: 24482549
Case-control study; matching; observational study; sensitivity analysis
Basta, Nicole E. | Stuart, James M. | Nascimento, Maria C. | Manigart, Olivier | Trotter, Caroline | Hassan-King, Musa | Chandramohan, Daniel | Sow, Samba O. | Berthe, Abdoulaye | Bedru, Ahmed | Tekletsion, Yenenesh K. | Collard, Jean-Marc | Jusot, Jean-François | Diallo, Aldiouma | Basséne, Hubert | Daugla, Doumagoum M. | Gamougam, Khadidja | Hodgson, Abraham | Forgor, Abudulai A. | Omotara, Babatunji A. | Gadzama, Galadima B. | Watkins, Eleanor R. | Rebbetts, Lisa S. | Diallo, Kanny | Weiss, Noel S. | Halloran, M. Elizabeth | Maiden, Martin C. J. | Greenwood, Brian
Objective
Detection of meningococcal carriers is key to understanding the epidemiology of Neisseria meningitidis, yet no gold standard has been established. Here, we directly compare two methods for collecting pharyngeal swabs to identify meningococcal carriers.
Methods
We conducted cross-sectional surveys of schoolchildren at multiple sites in Africa to compare swabbing the posterior pharynx behind the uvula (U) to swabbing the posterior pharynx behind the uvula plus one tonsil (T). Swabs were cultured immediately and analyzed using molecular methods.
Results
One thousand and six paired swab samples collected from schoolchildren in four countries were analyzed. Prevalence of meningococcal carriage was 6.9% (95% CI: 5.4-8.6%) based on the results from both swabs, but the observed prevalence was lower based on one swab type alone. Prevalence based on the T swab or the U swab alone was similar (5.2% (95% CI: 3.8-6.7%) versus 4.9% (95% CI: 3.6-6.4%) respectively (p=0.6)). The concordance between the two methods was 96.3% and the kappa was 0.61 (95% CI: 0.50-0.73), indicating good agreement.
Conclusions
These two commonly used methods for collecting pharyngeal swabs provide consistent estimates of the prevalence of carriage, but both methods misclassified carriers to some degree, leading to underestimates of the prevalence.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078336
PMCID: PMC3806823
PMID: 24194921
Background
Mathematical models have been used to study the dynamics of infectious disease outbreaks and predict the effectiveness of potential mass vaccination campaigns. However, models depend on simplifying assumptions to be tractable, and the consequences of making such assumptions need to be studied. Two assumptions usually incorporated by mathematical models of vector-borne disease transmission is homogeneous mixing among the hosts and vectors and homogeneous distribution of the vectors.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We explored the effects of mosquito movement and distribution in an individual-based model of dengue transmission in which humans and mosquitoes are explicitly represented in a spatial environment. We found that the limited flight range of the vector in the model greatly reduced its ability to transmit dengue among humans. A model that does not assume a limited flight range could yield similar attack rates when transmissibility of dengue was reduced by 39%. A model in which mosquitoes are distributed uniformly across locations behaves similarly to one in which the number of mosquitoes per location is drawn from an exponential distribution with a slightly higher mean number of mosquitoes per location. When the models with different assumptions were calibrated to have similar human infection attack rates, mass vaccination had nearly identical effects.
Conclusions/Significance
Small changes in assumptions in a mathematical model of dengue transmission can greatly change its behavior, but estimates of the effectiveness of mass dengue vaccination are robust to some simplifying assumptions typically made in mathematical models of vector-borne disease.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076044
PMCID: PMC3804532
PMID: 24204590
Genomic data will become an increasingly important component of epidemiologic studies in coming years. The authors of the accompanying Journal article, van Ballegooijen et al. (Am J Epidemiol. 2009;170(12):1455–1463), are to be commended for attempting to use the coalescent analysis of viral sequence data to evaluate a hepatitis B vaccination program. Coalescent theory attempts to link the phylogenetic history of populations with rates of population growth and decline. In particular, under certain assumptions, a reduction in genetic diversity can be interpreted as a reduction in disease incidence. However, the authors of this commentary contend that van Ballegooijen et al.’s interpretation of changes in viral genetic diversity as a measure of hepatitis B vaccine effectiveness has major limitations. Because of the potential use of these methods in future vaccination studies, the authors discuss the utility of these methods and the data requirements needed for them to be convincing. First, data sets should be large enough to provide sufficient epidemiologic-scale resolution. Second, data need to reflect sufficiently fine-grained temporal sampling. Third, other processes that can potentially influence genetic diversity and confuse demographic inferences should be considered.
doi:10.1093/aje/kwp366
PMCID: PMC2800275
PMID: 19910381
communicable diseases; disease notification; disease transmission, infectious; genetic variation; hepatitis B virus; molecular sequence data; vaccination
Vaccination of one person may prevent the infection of another either because the vaccine prevents the first from being infected and from infecting the second, or because, even if the first person is infected, the vaccine may render the infection less infectious. We might refer to the first of these mechanisms as a contagion effect and the second as an infectiousness effect. In the simple setting of a randomized vaccine trial with households of size two, we use counterfactual theory under interference to provide formal definitions of a contagion effect and an unconditional infectiousness effect. Using ideas analogous to mediation analysis, we show that the indirect effect (the effect of one person’s vaccine on another’s outcome) can be decomposed into a contagion effect and an unconditional infectiousness effect on the risk-difference, risk-ratio, odds-ratio and vaccine-efficacy scales. We provide identification assumptions for such contagion and unconditional infectiousness effects, and describe a simple statistical technique to estimate these effects when they are identified. We also give a sensitivity-analysis technique to assess how inferences would change under violations of the identification assumptions. The concepts and results of this paper are illustrated with hypothetical vaccine-trial data.
doi:10.1097/EDE.0b013e31825fb7a0
PMCID: PMC3415570
PMID: 22828661
Background
A major portion of influenza disease burden during the 2009 pandemic was observed among young people.
Methods
We examined the effect of age on the transmission of influenza-like illness associated with the 2009 pandemic influenza A (H1N1) virus (pH1N1) for an April–May 2009 outbreak among youth-camp participants and household contacts in Washington State.
Results
An influenza-like illness attack rate of 51% was found among 96 camp participants. We observed a cabin secondary attack rate of 42% (95% confidence interval = 21%–66%) and a camp local reproductive number of 2.7 (1.7–4.1) for influenza-like illness among children (less than 18 years old). Among the 136 contacts in the 41 households with an influenza-like illness index case who attended the camp, the influenza-like illness secondary attack rate was 11% for children (5%–21%) and 4% for adults (2%–8%). The odds ratio for influenza-like illness among children versus adults was 3.1 (1.3–7.3).
Conclusions
The strong age effect, combined with the low number of susceptible children per household (1.2), plausibly explains the lower-than-expected household secondary attack rate for influenza-like illness, illustrating the importance of other venues where children congregate for sustaining community transmission. Quantifying the effects of age on pH1N1 transmission is important for informing effective intervention strategies.
doi:10.1097/EDE.0b013e3182060ca5
PMCID: PMC3755879
PMID: 21233714
In the 2003–2004 influenza season, the predominant circulating influenza A (H3N2) virus in the United States was similar antigenically to A/Fujian/411/2002 (H3N2), a drift variant of A/Panama/2007/99 (H3N2), the vaccine strain. That year, a field study of trivalent live-attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV-T) was conducted in Temple-Belton, Texas, as part of a larger community-based, non-randomized, open-label study in three communities that began in August 1998 [1, 2, 3]. Participants were healthy children aged 5 – 18 years. The analysis here concerns 6,403 children in the Scott & White Health Plan (SWHP) database living within zip codes of the Temple-Belton area, of whom 1,706 received LAIV-T and 548 received trivalent inactivated vaccine (TIV) in 2003, 983 had been previously vaccinated in 1998–2001, but not in 2002–2003 or 2003, and 3,166 had never been vaccinated. The main outcome measure was medically-attended acute respiratory illness (MAARI). Surveillance culture results were incorporated into the analysis to estimate efficacy against culture-confirmed influenza illness. Vaccine effectiveness of LAIV-T against MAARI was 26% (95% confidence interval (CI) 11,39). Vaccine efficacy of LAIV-T against culture-confirmed influenza illness including surveillance cultures of children in the SWHP database in the validation calculation was 56% (95% CI 24,84). LAIV-T was cross-protective with a drift variant strain in 2003–2004, evidence that such vaccines could be important for preparing for a pandemic and for annual influenza.
doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2007.02.060
PMCID: PMC2883284
PMID: 17395338
efficacy; influenza; surveillance; vaccine
Objectives
To project the potential economic impact of pandemic influenza mitigation strategies from a societal perspective in the United States.
Methods
We use a stochastic agent-based model to simulate pandemic influenza in the community. We compare 17 strategies: targeted antiviral prophylaxis (TAP) alone and in combination with school closure as well as prevaccination.
Results
In the absence of intervention, we predict a 50% attack rate with an economic impact of $187 per capita as loss to society. Full TAP is the most effective single strategy, reducing number of cases by 54% at the lowest cost to society ($127 per capita). Prevaccination reduces number of cases by 48% and is the second least costly alternative ($140 per capita). Adding school closure to full TAP or prevaccination further improves health outcomes, but increases total cost to society by approximately $2700 per capita.
Conclusion
Full targeted antiviral prophylaxis is an effective and cost-saving measure for mitigating pandemic influenza.
doi:10.1111/j.1524-4733.2008.00437.x
PMCID: PMC3710126
PMID: 18671770
Influenza; Human Disease Outbreaks; Cost-Benefit Analysis; Economics; Pharmaceutical Models; Theoretical; Computer Simulation
We propose the minicommunity design to estimate indirect effects of vaccination. Establishing indirect effects of vaccination in unvaccinated subpopulations could have important implications for global vaccine policies. In the minicommunity design, the household or other small transmission unit serves as the cluster in which to estimate indirect effects of vaccination, similar to studies in larger communities to estimate indirect, total, and overall effects. Examples from the literature include studies in small transmission units to estimate indirect effects of pertussis, pneumococcal, influenza, and cholera vaccines. We characterize the minicommunity design by several methodologic considerations, including the assignment mechanism, ascertainment, the role of transmission outside the transmission unit, and the relation of the size of the transmission unit to number of people vaccinated. The minicommunity study for indirect effects is contrasted with studies to estimate vaccine effects on infectiousness and protective effects under conditions of household exposure within small transmission units. The minicommunity design can be easily implemented in individually randomized studies by enrolling and following-up members of households of the randomized individuals. The methodology for the minicommunity design for estimating indirect effects of vaccination deserves much future research.
doi:10.1515/2161-962X.1008
PMCID: PMC3627501
PMID: 23599908
A fundamental assumption usually made in causal inference is that of no interference between individuals (or units); that is, the potential outcomes of one individual are assumed to be unaffected by the treatment assignment of other individuals. However, in many settings, this assumption obviously does not hold. For example, in the dependent happenings of infectious diseases, whether one person becomes infected depends on who else in the population is vaccinated. In this article, we consider a population of groups of individuals where interference is possible between individuals within the same group. We propose estimands for direct, indirect, total, and overall causal effects of treatment strategies in this setting. Relations among the estimands are established; for example, the total causal effect is shown to equal the sum of direct and indirect causal effects. Using an experimental design with a two-stage randomization procedure (first at the group level, then at the individual level within groups), unbiased estimators of the proposed estimands are presented. Variances of the estimators are also developed. The methodology is illustrated in two different settings where interference is likely: assessing causal effects of housing vouchers and of vaccines.
doi:10.1198/016214508000000292
PMCID: PMC2600548
PMID: 19081744
Group-randomized trials; Potential outcomes; Stable unit treatment value assumption; SUTVA; Vaccine
With new cases of avian influenza H5N1 (H5N1AV) arising frequently, the threat of a new influenza pandemic remains a challenge for public health. Several vaccines have been developed specifically targeting H5N1AV, but their production is limited and only a few million doses are readily available. Because there is an important time lag between the emergence of new pandemic strain and the development and distribution of a vaccine, shortage of vaccine is very likely at the beginning of a pandemic. We coupled a mathematical model with a genetic algorithm to optimally and dynamically distribute vaccine in a network of cities, connected by the airline transportation network. By minimizing the illness attack rate (i.e., the percentage of people in the population who become infected and ill), we focus on optimizing vaccine allocation in a network of 16 cities in Southeast Asia when only a few million doses are available. In our base case, we assume the vaccine is well-matched and vaccination occurs 5 to 10 days after the beginning of the epidemic. The effectiveness of all the vaccination strategies drops off as the timing is delayed or the vaccine is less well-matched. Under the best assumptions, optimal vaccination strategies substantially reduced the illness attack rate, with a maximal reduction in the attack rate of 85%. Furthermore, our results suggest that cooperative strategies where the resources are optimally distributed among the cities perform much better than the strategies where the vaccine is equally distributed among the network, yielding an illness attack rate 17% lower. We show that it is possible to significantly mitigate a more global epidemic with limited quantities of vaccine, provided that the vaccination campaign is extremely fast and it occurs within the first weeks of transmission.
Author Summary
In the past, the emergence of new strains of influenza has been sometimes responsible for large and deadly pandemics. With a very high mortality rate, (i.e., about 60% of the reported cases), H5N1AV influenza, commonly known as bird flu, is thought to be an important potential threat for a new pandemic. Because of this, several vaccines have been developed, but only a few million doses are readily available. Other zoonotic influenza strains, particularly in pigs, also threaten, and vaccines are being produced for them as well. In the event of an influenza pandemic, utilizing these resources optimally could make the difference between dealing with a serious infectious disease at a global scale and reducing it to a highly localized and controlled outbreak. In this paper, we address this issue by developing a mathematical model of influenza transmission on a network of cities. We couple the model with an optimization algorithm to allocate vaccine in time and space through the network. We find that our optimal allocation strategies can mitigate a pandemic, provided that vaccination occurs quickly, within the first weeks of a potential pandemic. In addition, our analysis highlights the importance of cooperative and coordinated vaccine distribution, if we want to mitigate a pandemic.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002964
PMCID: PMC3605056
PMID: 23555207
Background
Following the outbreaks of 2009 pandemic H1N1 infection, rapid influenza diagnostic tests have been used to detect H1N1 infection. However, no meta-analysis has been undertaken to assess the diagnostic accuracy when this manuscript was drafted.
Methods
The literature was systematically searched to identify studies that reported the performance of rapid tests. Random effects meta-analyses were conducted to summarize the overall performance.
Results
Seventeen studies were selected with 1879 cases and 3477 non-cases. The overall sensitivity and specificity estimates of the rapid tests were 0.51 (95%CI: 0.41, 0.60) and 0.98 (95%CI: 0.94, 0.99). Studies reported heterogeneous sensitivity estimates, ranging from 0.11 to 0.88. If the prevalence was 30%, the overall positive and negative predictive values were 0.94 (95%CI: 0.85, 0.98) and 0.82 (95%CI: 0.79, 0.85). The overall specificities from different manufacturers were comparable, while there were some differences for the overall sensitivity estimates. BinaxNOW had a lower overall sensitivity of 0.39 (95%CI: 0.24, 0.57) compared to all the others (p-value < 0.001), whereas QuickVue had a higher overall sensitivity of 0.57 (95%CI: 0.50, 0.63) compared to all the others (p-value = 0.005).
Conclusions
Rapid tests have high specificity but low sensitivity and thus limited usefulness.
doi:10.1111/j.1750-2659.2011.00284.x
PMCID: PMC3288365
PMID: 21883964
meta analysis; H1N1; diagnostic tests; rapid tests; sensitivity and specificity
Many epidemic models approximate social contact behavior by assuming random mixing within mixing groups (e.g., homes, schools, and workplaces). The effect of more realistic social network structure on estimates of epidemic parameters is an open area of exploration. We develop a detailed statistical model to estimate the social contact network within a high school using friendship network data and a survey of contact behavior. Our contact network model includes classroom structure, longer durations of contacts to friends than non-friends and more frequent contacts with friends, based on reports in the contact survey. We performed simulation studies to explore which network structures are relevant to influenza transmission. These studies yield two key findings. First, we found that the friendship network structure important to the transmission process can be adequately represented by a dyad-independent exponential random graph model (ERGM). This means that individual-level sampled data is sufficient to characterize the entire friendship network. Second, we found that contact behavior was adequately represented by a static rather than dynamic contact network. We then compare a targeted antiviral prophylaxis intervention strategy and a grade closure intervention strategy under random mixing and network-based mixing. We find that random mixing overestimates the effect of targeted antiviral prophylaxis on the probability of an epidemic when the probability of transmission in 10 minutes of contact is less than 0.004 and underestimates it when this transmission probability is greater than 0.004. We found the same pattern for the final size of an epidemic, with a threshold transmission probability of 0.005. We also find random mixing overestimates the effect of a grade closure intervention on the probability of an epidemic and final size for all transmission probabilities. Our findings have implications for policy recommendations based on models assuming random mixing, and can inform further development of network-based models.
doi:10.1214/11-AOAS505
PMCID: PMC3359895
PMID: 22639701
contact network; epidemic model; influenza; simulation model; social network
Summary
In epidemics of infectious diseases such as influenza, an individual may have one of four possible final states: prior immune, escaped from infection, infected with symptoms, and infected asymptomatically. The exact state is often not observed. In addition, the unobserved transmission times of asymptomatic infections further complicate analysis. Under the assumption of missing at random, data-augmentation techniques can be used to integrate out such uncertainties. We adapt an importance-sampling-based Monte Carlo EM (MCEM) algorithm to the setting of an infectious disease transmitted in close contact groups. Assuming the independence between close contact groups, we propose a hybrid EM-MCEM algorithm that applies the MCEM or the traditional EM algorithms to each close contact group depending on the dimension of missing data in that group, and discuss the variance estimation for this practice. In addition, we propose a bootstrap approach to assess the total Monte Carlo error and factor that error into the variance estimation. The proposed methods are evaluated using simulation studies. We use the hybrid EM-MCEM algorithm to analyze two influenza epidemics in the late 1970s to assess the effects of age and pre-season antibody levels on the transmissibility and pathogenicity of the viruses.
doi:10.1111/j.1541-0420.2012.01757.x
PMCID: PMC3402623
PMID: 22506893
Data augmentation; EM algorithm; Infectious disease; Missing data; Monte Carlo
Background
Dengue is a mosquito-borne infectious disease that constitutes a growing global threat with the habitat expansion of its vectors Aedes aegyti and A. albopictus and increasing urbanization. With no effective treatment and limited success of vector control, dengue vaccines constitute the best control measure for the foreseeable future. With four interacting dengue serotypes, the development of an effective vaccine has been a challenge. Several dengue vaccine candidates are currently being tested in clinical trials. Before the widespread introduction of a new dengue vaccine, one needs to consider how best to use limited supplies of vaccine given the complex dengue transmission dynamics and the immunological interaction among the four dengue serotypes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We developed an individual-level (including both humans and mosquitoes), stochastic simulation model for dengue transmission and control in a semi-rural area in Thailand. We calibrated the model to dengue serotype-specific infection, illness and hospitalization data from Thailand. Our simulations show that a realistic roll-out plan, starting with young children then covering progressively older individuals in following seasons, could reduce local transmission of dengue to low levels. Simulations indicate that this strategy could avert about 7,700 uncomplicated dengue fever cases and 220 dengue hospitalizations per 100,000 people at risk over a ten-year period.
Conclusions/Significance
Vaccination will have an important role in controlling dengue. According to our modeling results, children should be prioritized to receive vaccine, but adults will also need to be vaccinated if one wants to reduce community-wide dengue transmission to low levels.
Author Summary
An estimated 40% of the world's population is at risk of infection with dengue, a mosquito-borne disease that can lead to hospitalization or death. Dengue vaccines are currently being tested in clinical trials and at least one product will likely be available within a couple of years. Before widespread deployment, one should plan how best to use limited supplies of vaccine. We developed a mathematical model of dengue transmission in semi-rural Thailand to help evaluate different vaccination strategies. Our modeling results indicate that children should be prioritized to receive vaccine to reduce dengue-related morbidity, but adults will also need to be vaccinated if one wants to eliminate local dengue transmission. Dengue is a challenging disease to study because of its four interacting serotypes, seasonality of its transmission, and pre-existing immunity in a population. Models such as this one are useful coherent framework for synthesizing these complex issues and evaluating potential public health interventions such as mass vaccination.
doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0001876
PMCID: PMC3493390
PMID: 23145197
Mathematical and computer models can provide guidance to public health officials by projecting the course of an epidemic and evaluating control measures. The authors built upon an existing collaboration between an academic research group and the Los Angeles County, California, Department of Public Health to plan for and respond to the first and subsequent years of pandemic influenza A (H1N1) circulation. The use of models allowed the authors to 1) project the timing and magnitude of the epidemic in Los Angeles County and the continental United States; 2) predict the effect of the influenza mass vaccination campaign that began in October 2009 on the spread of pandemic H1N1 in Los Angeles County and the continental United States; and 3) predict that a third wave of pandemic influenza in the winter or spring of 2010 was unlikely to occur. The close collaboration between modelers and public health officials during pandemic H1N1 spread in the fall of 2009 helped Los Angeles County officials develop a measured and appropriate response to the unfolding pandemic and establish reasonable goals for mitigation of pandemic H1N1.
doi:10.1093/aje/kwq497
PMCID: PMC3121321
PMID: 21427173
communicable disease control; influenza, human; influenza vaccines; mass vaccination
Summary
Prophylaxis of contacts of infectious cases such as household members and treatment of infectious cases are methods to prevent spread of infectious diseases. We develop a method based on maximum likelihood to estimate the efficacy of such interventions and the transmission probabilities. We consider both the design with prospective follow-up of close contact groups and the design with ascertainment of close contact groups by an index case as well as randomization by groups and by individuals. We compare the designs using simulations. We estimate the efficacy of the influenza antiviral agent oseltamivir in reducing susceptibility and infectiousness in two case-ascertained household trials.
doi:10.1111/j.1467-9876.2006.00539.x
PMCID: PMC3312606
PMID: 22457545
Antiviral agent; Community trial; Infectious disease; Intervention efficacy; Left truncation