Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Battling bird flu by the numbers

29.05.2008
Los Alamos mathematical model gauges epidemic potential of emerging diseases

A pair of Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers have developed a mathematical tool that could help health experts and crisis managers determine in real time whether an emerging infectious disease such as avian influenza H5N1 is poised to spread globally.

In a paper published recently in the Public Library of Science, researchers Luís Bettencourt and Ruy Ribeiro of Los Alamos’ Theoretical Division describe a novel approach to reading subtle changes in epidemiological data to gain insight into whether something like the H5N1 strain of avian influenza—commonly known these days as the “Bird Flu”—has gained the ability to touch off a deadly global pandemic.

“What we wanted to create was a mathematically rigorous way to account for changes in transmissibility,” said Bettencourt. “We now have a tool that will tell us in the very short term what is happening based on anomaly detection. What this method won’t tell you is what’s going to happen five years from now.”

Bettencourt and Ribeiro began their work nearly three years ago, at a time when the world was wondering whether avian influenza H5N1, with its relatively high human mortality rate, could become a frightening new pandemic. Health experts believe that right now the virus primarily infects humans who come in contact with infected poultry.

But some health experts fear the virus could evolve to a form that would become transmissible from human to human, the basis of a pandemic like the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed an estimated 50 million people.

The Los Alamos researchers set out to create a “smart methodology” to look at changes in disease transmissibility that did not require mounds of epidemiological surveillance data for accuracy. The ability to look at small disease populations in real time could allow responders and health experts to implement quarantine policies and provide medical resources to key areas early on in an emerging pandemic and possibly stem the spread.

Bettencourt and Ribeiro developed an extension of standard epidemiological models that describes the probability of disease spread among a given population. The model then takes into account actual disease surveillance data gathered by health experts like the World Health Organization and looks for anomalies in the expected transmission rate versus the actual one. Based on this, the model provides health experts actual transmission probabilities for the disease. Unlike other statistical models that require huge amounts of data for accuracy, the Los Alamos tool works on very small populations such as a handful of infected people in a remote village.

After developing their Bayesian estimation of epidemic potential, Bettencourt went back and looked at actual epidemiological surveillance data collected during Bird Flu outbreaks in certain parts of the world. Their model accurately portrayed actual transmission scenarios, lending confidence to its methodology.

In addition to its utility in understanding the transmissibility of emerging diseases, the new method is also advantageous because it allows public health experts to study outbreaks of more common ailments such as seasonal influenza early on. This can assist medical professionals in making better estimates of potential morbidity and mortality, along with assessments of intervention strategies and resource allocations that can help a population better cope with a developing seasonal outbreak.

“We are closing the loop on science-based prediction of transmission consequences in real time,” said Ribeiro. “A program of this type is something that needs to be implemented at a worldwide level to provide an integrated way to respond a priori to an emerging disease threat.”

Los Alamos National Laboratory is a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security. The Laboratory is operated by a team composed of Bechtel National, the University of California, BWX Technologies, and Washington Group International for the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health and global security concerns.

James Rickman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.lanl.gov

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Study tracks inner workings of the brain with new biosensor
16.08.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn

nachricht Foods of the future
15.08.2018 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Staying in Shape

16.08.2018 | Life Sciences

Diving robots find Antarctic seas exhale surprising amounts of carbon dioxide in winter

16.08.2018 | Earth Sciences

Protein droplets keep neurons at the ready and immune system in balance

16.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>