46 results found
Parag KV, 2021, Improved estimation of time-varying reproduction numbers at low case incidence and between epidemic waves., PLoS Comput Biol, Vol: 17
We construct a recursive Bayesian smoother, termed EpiFilter, for estimating the effective reproduction number, R, from the incidence of an infectious disease in real time and retrospectively. Our approach borrows from Kalman filtering theory, is quick and easy to compute, generalisable, deterministic and unlike many current methods, requires no change-point or window size assumptions. We model R as a flexible, hidden Markov state process and exactly solve forward-backward algorithms, to derive R estimates that incorporate all available incidence information. This unifies and extends two popular methods, EpiEstim, which considers past incidence, and the Wallinga-Teunis method, which looks forward in time. We find that this combination of maximising information and minimising assumptions significantly reduces the bias and variance of R estimates. Moreover, these properties make EpiFilter more statistically robust in periods of low incidence, where several existing methods can become destabilised. As a result, EpiFilter offers improved inference of time-varying transmission patterns that are advantageous for assessing the risk of upcoming waves of infection or the influence of interventions, in real time and at various spatial scales.
Kraemer MUG, Hill V, Ruis C, et al., 2021, Spatiotemporal invasion dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 lineage B.1.1.7 emergence, Science, Vol: 373, Pages: 889-895, ISSN: 0036-8075
Understanding the causes and consequences of the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern is crucial to pandemic control yet difficult to achieve, as they arise in the context of variable human behavior and immunity. We investigate the spatial invasion dynamics of lineage B.1.1.7 by jointly analyzing UK human mobility, virus genomes, and community-based PCR data. We identify a multi-stage spatial invasion process in which early B.1.1.7 growth rates were associated with mobility and asymmetric lineage export from a dominant source location, enhancing the effects of B.1.1.7's increased intrinsic transmissibility. We further explore how B.1.1.7 spread was shaped by non-pharmaceutical interventions and spatial variation in previous attack rates. Our findings show that careful accounting of the behavioral and epidemiological context within which variants of concern emerge is necessary to interpret correctly their observed relative growth rates.
Parag K, 2021, Sub-spreading events limit the reliable elimination of heterogeneous epidemics, Journal of the Royal Society Interface, Vol: 18, Pages: 1-10, ISSN: 1742-5662
We show that sub-spreading events i.e., transmission events in which an infection propagates to few or no individuals, can be surprisingly important for defining the lifetime of an infectious disease epidemic and hence its waiting time to elimination or fade-out, measured from the time-point of its last observed case. While limiting super-spreading promotes more effective control when cases are growing, we find that when incidence is waning, curbing sub-spreading is more important for achieving reliable elimination of the epidemic. Controlling super-spreading in this low-transmissibility phase offers diminishing returns over non-selective, population-wide measures. By restricting sub-spreading we efficiently dampen remaining variations among the reproduction numbers of infectious events, which minimises the risk of premature and late end-of-epidemic declarations. Because case-ascertainment or reporting rates can be modelled in exactly the same way as control policies, we concurrently show that the under-reporting of sub-spreading events during waning phases will engender overconfident assessments of epidemic elimination. While controlling sub-spreading may not be easily realised, the likely neglecting of these events by surveillance systems could result in unexpectedly risky end-of-epidemic declarations. Super-spreading controls the size of the epidemic peak but sub-spreading mediates the variability of its tail.
Parag KV, Pybus OG, Wu C-H, 2021, Are skyline plot-based demographic estimates overly dependent on smoothing prior assumptions?, Systematic Biology, ISSN: 1063-5157
In Bayesian phylogenetics, the coalescent process provides an informative framework for inferring changes in the effective size of a population from a phylogeny (or tree) of sequences sampled from that population. Popular coalescent inference approaches such as the Bayesian Skyline Plot, Skyride and Skygrid all model these population size changes with a discontinuous, piecewise-constant function but then apply a smoothing prior to ensure that their posterior population size estimates transition gradually with time. These prior distributions implicitly encode extra population size information that is not available from the observed coalescent data i.e., the tree. Here we present a novel statistic, Ω, to quantify and disaggregate the relative contributions of the coalescent data and prior assumptions to the resulting posterior estimate precision. Our statistic also measures the additional mutual information introduced by such priors. Using Ω we show that, because it is surprisingly easy to over-parametrise piecewise-constant population models, common smoothing priors can lead to overconfident and potentially misleading inference, even under robust experimental designs. We propose Ω as a useful tool for detecting when effective population size estimates are overly reliant on prior assumptions and for improving quantification of the uncertainty in those estimates.
Parag KV, Thompson RN, Donnelly CA, 2021, Are epidemic growth rates more informative than reproduction numbers?
<jats:p>Summary statistics, often derived from simplified models of epidemic spread, inform public health policy in real time. The instantaneous reproduction number, <jats:italic>R</jats:italic><jats:sub><jats:italic>t</jats:italic></jats:sub>, is predominant among these statistics, measuring the average ability of an infection to multiply. However, <jats:italic>R</jats:italic><jats:sub><jats:italic>t</jats:italic></jats:sub> encodes no temporal information and is sensitive to modelling assumptions. Consequently, some have proposed the epidemic growth rate, <jats:italic>r</jats:italic><jats:sub><jats:italic>t</jats:italic></jats:sub>, i.e., the rate of change of the log-transformed case incidence, as a more temporally meaningful and model-agnostic policy guide. We examine this assertion, identifying if and when estimates of <jats:italic>r</jats:italic><jats:sub><jats:italic>t</jats:italic></jats:sub> are more informative than those of <jats:italic>R</jats:italic><jats:sub><jats:italic>t</jats:italic></jats:sub>. We assess their relative strengths both for learning about pathogen transmission mechanisms and for guiding public health interventions in real time.</jats:p>
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, countries have sought to control SARS-CoV-2 transmission by restricting population movement through social distancing interventions, thus reducing the number of contacts.Mobility data represent an important proxy measure of social distancing, and here, we characterise the relationship between transmission and mobility for 52 countries around the world.Transmission significantly decreased with the initial reduction in mobility in 73% of the countries analysed, but we found evidence of decoupling of transmission and mobility following the relaxation of strict control measures for 80% of countries. For the majority of countries, mobility explained a substantial proportion of the variation in transmissibility (median adjusted R-squared: 48%, interquartile range - IQR - across countries [27-77%]). Where a change in the relationship occurred, predictive ability decreased after the relaxation; from a median adjusted R-squared of 74% (IQR across countries [49-91%]) pre-relaxation, to a median adjusted R-squared of 30% (IQR across countries [12-48%]) post-relaxation.In countries with a clear relationship between mobility and transmission both before and after strict control measures were relaxed, mobility was associated with lower transmission rates after control measures were relaxed indicating that the beneficial effects of ongoing social distancing behaviours were substantial.
du Plessis L, McCrone JT, Zarebski AE, et al., 2021, Establishment and lineage dynamics of the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic in the UK, SCIENCE, Vol: 371, Pages: 708-+, ISSN: 0036-8075
Sabino EC, Buss LF, Carvalho MPS, et al., 2021, Resurgence of COVID-19 in Manaus, Brazil, despite high seroprevalence, LANCET, Vol: 397, Pages: 452-455, ISSN: 0140-6736
Buss LF, Prete CA, Abrahim CMM, et al., 2021, Three-quarters attack rate of SARS-CoV-2 in the Brazilian Amazon during a largely unmitigated epidemic., Science, Vol: 371, Pages: 288-292, ISSN: 1095-9203
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spread rapidly in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state in northern Brazil. The attack rate there is an estimate of the final size of the largely unmitigated epidemic that occurred in Manaus. We use a convenience sample of blood donors to show that by June 2020, 1 month after the epidemic peak in Manaus, 44% of the population had detectable immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies. Correcting for cases without a detectable antibody response and for antibody waning, we estimate a 66% attack rate in June, rising to 76% in October. This is higher than in São Paulo, in southeastern Brazil, where the estimated attack rate in October was 29%. These results confirm that when poorly controlled, COVID-19 can infect a large proportion of the population, causing high mortality.
Fu H, Wang H, Xi X, et al., 2021, A database for the epidemic trends and control measures during the first wave of COVID-19 in mainland China, International Journal of Infectious Diseases, Vol: 102, Pages: 463-471, ISSN: 1201-9712
Objectives: This data collation effort aims to provide a comprehensive database to describe the epidemic trends and responses during the first wave of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)across main provinces in China. Methods: From mid-January to March 2020, we extracted publicly available data on the spread and control of COVID-19 from 31 provincial health authorities and major media outlets in mainland China. Based on these data, we conducted a descriptive analysis of the epidemics in the six most-affected provinces. Results: School closures, travel restrictions, community-level lockdown, and contact tracing were introduced concurrently around late January but subsequent epidemic trends were different across provinces. Compared to Hubei, the other five most-affected provinces reported a lower crude case fatality ratio and proportion of critical and severe hospitalised cases. From March 2020, as local transmission of COVID-19 declined, switching the focus of measures to testing and quarantine of inbound travellers could help to sustain the control of the epidemic. Conclusions: Aggregated indicators of case notifications and severity distributions are essential for monitoring an epidemic. A publicly available database with these indicators and information on control measures provides useful source for exploring further research and policy planning for response to the COVID-19 epidemic.
Unwin H, Mishra S, Bradley V, et al., 2020, State-level tracking of COVID-19 in the United States, Nature Communications, Vol: 11, Pages: 1-9, ISSN: 2041-1723
As of 1st June 2020, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 104,232 confirmed or probable COVID-19-related deaths in the US. This was more than twice the number of deaths reported in the next most severely impacted country. We jointly model the US epidemic at the state-level, using publicly available deathdata within a Bayesian hierarchical semi-mechanistic framework. For each state, we estimate the number of individuals that have been infected, the number of individuals that are currently infectious and the time-varying reproduction number (the average number of secondary infections caused by an infected person). We use changes in mobility to capture the impact that non-pharmaceutical interventions and other behaviour changes have on therate of transmission of SARS-CoV-2. We estimate thatRtwas only below one in 23 states on 1st June. We also estimate that 3.7% [3.4%-4.0%] of the total population of the US had been infected, with wide variation between states, and approximately 0.01% of the population was infectious. We demonstrate good 3 week model forecasts of deaths with low error and good coverage of our credible intervals.
Thompson H, Imai N, Dighe A, et al., 2020, SARS-CoV-2 infection prevalence on repatriation flights from Wuhan City, China, Journal of Travel Medicine, Vol: 27, Pages: 1-3, ISSN: 1195-1982
We estimated SARS-CoV-2 infection prevalence in cohorts of repatriated citizens from Wuhan to be 0.44% (95% CI: 0.19%–1.03%). Although not representative of the wider population we believe these estimates are helpful in providing a conservative estimate of infection prevalence in Wuhan City, China, in the absence of large-scale population testing early in the epidemic.
Parag K, Donnelly C, Jha R, et al., 2020, An exact method for quantifying the reliability of end-of-epidemic declarations in real time, PLoS Computational Biology, Vol: 16, ISSN: 1553-734X
We derive and validate a novel and analytic method for estimating the probability that an epidemic has been eliminated (i.e. that no future local cases will emerge) in real time. When this probability crosses 0.95 an outbreak can be declared over with 95% confidence. Our method is easy to compute, only requires knowledge of the incidence curve and the serial interval distribution, and evaluates the statistical lifetime of the outbreak of interest. Using this approach, we show how the time-varying under-reporting of infected cases will artificially inflate the inferred probability of elimination, leading to premature (false-positive) end-of-epidemic declarations. Contrastingly, we prove that incorrectly identifying imported cases as local will deceptively decrease this probability, resulting in delayed (false-negative) declarations. Failing to sustain intensive surveillance during the later phases of an epidemic can therefore substantially mislead policymakers on when it is safe to remove travel bans or relax quarantine and social distancing advisories. World Health Organisation guidelines recommend fixed (though disease-specific) waiting times for end-of-epidemic declarations that cannot accommodate these variations. Consequently, there is an unequivocal need for more active and specialised metrics for reliably identifying the conclusion of an epidemic.
Parag KV, Cowling BJ, Donnelly CA, 2020, Deciphering early-warning signals of SARS-CoV-2 elimination and resurgence from limited data at multiple scales
<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title><jats:p>Inferring the transmission potential of an infectious disease during low-incidence periods following epidemic waves is crucial for preparedness. In such periods, scarce data hamper existing inference methods, blurring early-warning signals essential for discriminating between the likelihoods of resurgence versus elimination. Advanced insight into whether elevating caseloads (requiring swift community-wide interventions) or local elimination (allowing controls to be relaxed or refocussed on case-importation) might occur, can separate decisive from ineffective policy. By generalising and fusing recent approaches, we propose a novel early-warning framework that maximises the information extracted from low-incidence data to robustly infer the chances of sustained local-transmission or elimination in real time, at any scale of investigation. Applying this framework, we decipher hidden disease-transmission signals in prolonged low-incidence COVID-19 data from New Zealand, Hong Kong and Victoria, Australia. We uncover how timely interventions associate with averting dangerous resurgent waves, support official elimination declarations and evidence the effectiveness of the rapid, adaptive COVID-19 responses employed in these regions.</jats:p>
Parag K, Donnelly C, 2020, Adaptive estimation for epidemic renewal and phylogenetic skyline models, Systematic Biology, Vol: 69, Pages: 1163-1179, ISSN: 1063-5157
Estimating temporal changes in a target population from phylogenetic or count data is an important problem in ecology and epidemiology. Reliable estimates can provide key insights into the climatic and biological drivers influencing the diversity or structure of that population and evidence hypotheses concerning its future growth or decline. In infectious disease applications, the individuals infected across an epidemic form the target population. The renewal model estimates the effective reproduction number, R, of the epidemic from counts of observed incident cases. The skyline model infers the effective population size, N, underlying a phylogeny of sequences sampled from that epidemic. Practically, R measures ongoing epidemic growth while N informs on historical caseload. While both models solve distinct problems, the reliability of their estimates depends on p-dimensional piecewise-constant functions. If p is misspecified, the model might underfit significant changes or overfit noise and promote a spurious understanding of the epidemic, which might misguide intervention policies or misinform forecasts. Surprisingly, no transparent yet principled approach for optimizing p exists. Usually, p is heuristically set, or obscurely controlled via complex algorithms. We present a computable and interpretable p-selection method based on the minimum description length (MDL) formalism of information theory. Unlike many standard model selection techniques, MDL accounts for the additional statistical complexity induced by how parameters interact. As a result, our method optimizes p so that R and N estimates properly and meaningfully adapt to available data. It also outperforms comparable Akaike and Bayesian information criteria on several classification problems, given minimal knowledge of the parameter space, and exposes statistical similarities among renewal, skyline, and other models in biology. Rigorous and interpretable model selection is necessary if trustworthy and just
Hogan A, Winskill P, Watson O, et al., 2020, Report 33: Modelling the allocation and impact of a COVID-19 vaccine
Several SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates are now in late-stage trials, with efficacy and safety results expected by the end of 2020. Even under optimistic scenarios for manufacture and delivery, the doses available in 2021 are likely to be limited. Here we identify optimal vaccine allocation strategies within and between countries to maximise health (avert deaths) under constraints on dose supply. We extended an existing mathematical model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission across different country settings to model the public health impact of potential vaccines, using a range of target product profiles developed by the World Health Organization. We show that as supply increases, vaccines that reduce or block infection – and thus transmission – in addition to preventing disease have a greater impact than those that prevent disease alone, due to the indirect protection provided to high-risk groups. We further demonstrate that the health impact of vaccination will depend on the cumulative infection incidence in the population when vaccination begins, the duration of any naturally acquired immunity, the likely trajectory of the epidemic in 2021 and the level of healthcare available to effectively treat those with disease. Within a country, we find that for a limited supply (doses for <20% of the population) the optimal strategy is to target the elderly and other high-risk groups. However, if a larger supply is available, the optimal strategy switches to targeting key transmitters (i.e. the working age population and potentially children) to indirectly protect the elderly and vulnerable. Given the likely global dose supply in 2021 (2 billion doses with a two-dose vaccine), we find that a strategy in which doses are allocated to countries in proportion to their population size is close to optimal in averting deaths. Such a strategy also aligns with the ethical principles agreed in pandemic preparedness planning.
Monod M, Blenkinsop A, Xi X, et al., 2020, Report 32: Targeting interventions to age groups that sustain COVID-19 transmission in the United States, Pages: 1-32
Following inial declines, in mid 2020, a resurgence in transmission of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has occurred in the United States and parts of Europe. Despite the wide implementaon of non-pharmaceucal inter-venons, it is sll not known how they are impacted by changing contact paerns, age and other demographics. As COVID-19 disease control becomes more localised, understanding the age demographics driving transmission and how these impact the loosening of intervenons such as school reopening is crucial. Considering dynamics for the United States, we analyse aggregated, age-speciﬁc mobility trends from more than 10 million individuals and link these mechaniscally to age-speciﬁc COVID-19 mortality data. In contrast to previous approaches, we link mobility to mortality via age speciﬁc contact paerns and use this rich relaonship to reconstruct accurate trans-mission dynamics. Contrary to anecdotal evidence, we ﬁnd lile support for age-shis in contact and transmission dynamics over me. We esmate that, unl August, 63.4% [60.9%-65.5%] of SARS-CoV-2 infecons in the United States originated from adults aged 20-49, while 1.2% [0.8%-1.8%] originated from children aged 0-9. In areas with connued, community-wide transmission, our transmission model predicts that re-opening kindergartens and el-ementary schools could facilitate spread and lead to considerable excess COVID-19 aributable deaths over a 90-day period. These ﬁndings indicate that targeng intervenons to adults aged 20-49 are an important con-sideraon in halng resurgent epidemics, and prevenng COVID-19-aributable deaths when kindergartens and elementary schools reopen.
Hogan A, Jewell B, Sherrard-Smith E, et al., 2020, Potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on HIV, TB and malaria in low- and middle-income countries: a modelling study, The Lancet Global Health, Vol: 8, Pages: e1132-e1141, ISSN: 2214-109X
Background: COVID-19 has the potential to cause substantial disruptions to health services, including by cases overburdening the health system or response measures limiting usual programmatic activities. We aimed to quantify the extent to which disruptions in services for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), tuberculosis (TB) and malaria in low- and middle-income countries with high burdens of those disease could lead to additional loss of life. Methods: We constructed plausible scenarios for the disruptions that could be incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic and used established transmission models for each disease to estimate the additional impact on health that could be caused in selected settings.Findings: In high burden settings, HIV-, TB- and malaria-related deaths over five years may increase by up to 10%, 20% and 36%, respectively, compared to if there were no COVID-19 pandemic. We estimate the greatest impact on HIV to be from interruption to antiretroviral therapy, which may occur during a period of high health system demand. For TB, we estimate the greatest impact is from reductions in timely diagnosis and treatment of new cases, which may result from any prolonged period of COVID-19 suppression interventions. We estimate that the greatest impact on malaria burden could come from interruption of planned net campaigns. These disruptions could lead to loss of life-years over five years that is of the same order of magnitude as the direct impact from COVID-19 in places with a high burden of malaria and large HIV/TB epidemics.Interpretation: Maintaining the most critical prevention activities and healthcare services for HIV, TB and malaria could significantly reduce the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.Funding: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Wellcome Trust, DFID, MRC
Lavezzo E, Franchin E, Ciavarella C, et al., 2020, Suppression of a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in the Italian municipality of Vo', Nature, Vol: 584, Pages: 425-429, ISSN: 0028-0836
On the 21st of February 2020 a resident of the municipality of Vo', a small town near Padua, died of pneumonia due to SARS-CoV-2 infection1. This was the first COVID-19 death detected in Italy since the emergence of SARS-CoV-2 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, Hubei province2. In response, the regional authorities imposed the lockdown of the whole municipality for 14 days3. We collected information on the demography, clinical presentation, hospitalization, contact network and presence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in nasopharyngeal swabs for 85.9% and 71.5% of the population of Vo' at two consecutive time points. On the first survey, which was conducted around the time the town lockdown started, we found a prevalence of infection of 2.6% (95% confidence interval (CI) 2.1-3.3%). On the second survey, which was conducted at the end of the lockdown, we found a prevalence of 1.2% (95% Confidence Interval (CI) 0.8-1.8%). Notably, 42.5% (95% CI 31.5-54.6%) of the confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections detected across the two surveys were asymptomatic (i.e. did not have symptoms at the time of swab testing and did not develop symptoms afterwards). The mean serial interval was 7.2 days (95% CI 5.9-9.6). We found no statistically significant difference in the viral load of symptomatic versus asymptomatic infections (p-values 0.62 and 0.74 for E and RdRp genes, respectively, Exact Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test). This study sheds new light on the frequency of asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection, their infectivity (as measured by the viral load) and provides new insights into its transmission dynamics and the efficacy of the implemented control measures.
Flaxman S, Mishra S, Gandy A, et al., 2020, Estimating the effects of non-pharmaceutical interventions on COVID-19 in Europe, Nature, Vol: 584, Pages: 257-261, ISSN: 0028-0836
Following the emergence of a novel coronavirus1 (SARS-CoV-2) and its spread outside of China, Europe has experienced large epidemics. In response, many European countries have implemented unprecedented non-pharmaceutical interventions such as closure of schools and national lockdowns. We study the impact of major interventions across 11 European countries for the period from the start of COVID-19 until the 4th of May 2020 when lockdowns started to be lifted. Our model calculates backwards from observed deaths to estimate transmission that occurred several weeks prior, allowing for the time lag between infection and death. We use partial pooling of information between countries with both individual and shared effects on the reproduction number. Pooling allows more information to be used, helps overcome data idiosyncrasies, and enables more timely estimates. Our model relies on fixed estimates of some epidemiological parameters such as the infection fatality rate, does not include importation or subnational variation and assumes that changes in the reproduction number are an immediate response to interventions rather than gradual changes in behavior. Amidst the ongoing pandemic, we rely on death data that is incomplete, with systematic biases in reporting, and subject to future consolidation. We estimate that, for all the countries we consider, current interventions have been sufficient to drive the reproduction number Rt below 1 (probability Rt< 1.0 is 99.9%) and achieve epidemic control. We estimate that, across all 11 countries, between 12 and 15 million individuals have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 up to 4th May, representing between 3.2% and 4.0% of the population. Our results show that major non-pharmaceutical interventions and lockdown in particular have had a large effect on reducing transmission. Continued intervention should be considered to keep transmission of SARS-CoV-2 under control.
Thompson RN, Hollingsworth TD, Isham V, et al., 2020, Key questions for modelling COVID-19 exit strategies, PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, Vol: 287, ISSN: 0962-8452
Parag K, Du Plessis L, Pybus O, 2020, Jointly inferring the dynamics of population size and sampling intensity from molecular sequences, Molecular Biology and Evolution, Vol: 37, Pages: 2414-2429, ISSN: 0737-4038
Estimating past population dynamics from molecular sequences that have been sampled longitudinally through time is an important problem in infectious disease epidemiology, molecular ecology and macroevolution. Popular solutions, such as the skyline and skygrid methods, infer past effective population sizes from the coalescent event times of phylogenies reconstructed from sampled sequences, but assume that sequence sampling times are uninformative about population size changes. Recent work has started to question this assumption by exploring how sampling time information can aid coalescent inference. Here we develop, investigate, and implement a new skyline method, termed the epoch sampling skyline plot (ESP), to jointly estimate the dynamics of population size and sampling rate through time. The ESP is inspired by real-world data collection practices and comprises a flexible model in which the sequence sampling rate is proportional to the population size within an epoch but can change discontinuously between epochs. We show that the ESP is accurate under several realistic sampling protocols and we prove analytically that it can at least double the best precision achievable by standard approaches. We generalise the ESP to incorporate phylogenetic uncertainty in a new Bayesian package (BESP) in BEAST2. We re-examine two well-studied empirical datasets from virus epidemiology and molecular evolution and find that the BESP improves upon previous coalescent estimators and generates new, biologically-useful insights into the sampling protocols underpinning these datasets. Sequence sampling times provide a rich source of information for coalescent inference that will become increasingly important as sequence collection intensifies and becomes more formalised.
de Souza WM, Buss LF, Candido DDS, et al., 2020, Epidemiological and clinical characteristics of the COVID-19 epidemic in Brazil, NATURE HUMAN BEHAVIOUR, Vol: 4, Pages: 856-+, ISSN: 2397-3374
Parag KV, Donnelly CA, Jha R, et al., 2020, An exact method for quantifying the reliability of end-of-epidemic declarations in real time, Publisher: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title><jats:p>We derive and validate a novel and analytic method for estimating the probability that an epidemic has been eliminated (i.e. that no future local cases will emerge) in real time. When this probability crosses 0.95 an outbreak can be declared over with 95% confidence. Our method is easy to compute, only requires knowledge of the incidence curve and the serial interval distribution, and evaluates the statistical lifetime of the outbreak of interest. Using this approach, we rigorously show how the time-varying under-reporting of infected cases will artificially inflate the inferred probability of elimination and hence lead to early (false-positive) end-of-epidemic declarations. Contrastingly, we prove that incorrectly identifying imported cases as local will deceptively decrease this probability, resulting in late (false-negative) declarations. Failing to sustain intensive surveillance during the later phases of an epidemic can therefore substantially mislead policymakers on when it is safe to remove travel bans or relax quarantine and social distancing advisories. World Health Organisation guidelines recommend fixed (though disease-specific) waiting times for end-of-epidemic declarations that cannot accommodate these variations. Consequently, there is an unequivocal need for more active and specialised metrics for reliably identifying the conclusion of an epidemic.</jats:p>
Fu H, Xi X, Wang H, et al., 2020, Report 30: The COVID-19 epidemic trends and control measures in mainland China
Parag K, Donnelly C, 2020, Using information theory to optimise epidemic models for real-time prediction and estimation, PLoS Computational Biology, Vol: 16, ISSN: 1553-734X
The effective reproduction number, Rt, is a key time-varying prognostic for the growth rate of any infectious disease epidemic. Significant changes in Rt can forewarn about new transmissions within a population or predict the efficacy of interventions. Inferring Rt reliably and in real-time from observed time-series of infected (demographic) data is an important problem in population dynamics. The renewal or branching process model is a popular solution that has been applied to Ebola and Zika virus disease outbreaks, among others, and is currently being used to investigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This model estimates Rt using a heuristically chosen piecewise function. While this facilitates real-time detection of statistically significant Rt changes, inference is highly sensitive to the function choice. Improperly chosen piecewise models might ignore meaningful changes or over-interpret noise-induced ones, yet produce visually reasonable estimates. No principled piecewise selection scheme exists. We develop a practical yet rigorous scheme using the accumulated prediction error (APE) metric from information theory, which deems the model capable of describing the observed data using the fewest bits as most justified. We derive exact posterior prediction distributions for infected population size and integrate these within an APE framework to obtain an exact and reliable method for identifying the piecewise function best supported by available epidemic data. We find that this choice optimises short-term prediction accuracy and can rapidly detect salient fluctuations in Rt, and hence the infected population growth rate, in real-time over the course of an unfolding epidemic. Moreover, we emphasise the need for formal selection by exposing how common heuristic choices, which seem sensible, can be misleading. Our APE-based method is easily computed and broadly applicable to statistically similar models found in phylogenetics and macroevolution, for example. Our resu
Nouvellet P, Bhatia S, Cori A, et al., 2020, Report 26: Reduction in mobility and COVID-19 transmission
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, countries have sought to control transmission of SARS-CoV-2by restricting population movement through social distancing interventions, reducing the number ofcontacts.Mobility data represent an important proxy measure of social distancing. Here, we develop aframework to infer the relationship between mobility and the key measure of population-level diseasetransmission, the reproduction number (R). The framework is applied to 53 countries with sustainedSARS-CoV-2 transmission based on two distinct country-specific automated measures of humanmobility, Apple and Google mobility data.For both datasets, the relationship between mobility and transmission was consistent within andacross countries and explained more than 85% of the variance in the observed variation intransmissibility. We quantified country-specific mobility thresholds defined as the reduction inmobility necessary to expect a decline in new infections (R<1).While social contacts were sufficiently reduced in France, Spain and the United Kingdom to controlCOVID-19 as of the 10th of May, we find that enhanced control measures are still warranted for themajority of countries. We found encouraging early evidence of some decoupling of transmission andmobility in 10 countries, a key indicator of successful easing of social-distancing restrictions.Easing social-distancing restrictions should be considered very carefully, as small increases in contactrates are likely to risk resurgence even where COVID-19 is apparently under control. Overall, strongpopulation-wide social-distancing measures are effective to control COVID-19; however gradualeasing of restrictions must be accompanied by alternative interventions, such as efficient contacttracing, to ensure control.
Dighe A, Cattarino L, Cuomo-Dannenburg G, et al., 2020, Report 25: Response to COVID-19 in South Korea and implications for lifting stringent interventions, 25
While South Korea experienced a sharp growth in COVID-19 cases early in the global pandemic, it has since rapidly reduced rates of infection and now maintains low numbers of daily new cases. Despite using less stringent “lockdown” measures than other affected countries, strong social distancing measures have been advised in high incidence areas and a 38% national decrease in movement occurred voluntarily between February 24th - March 1st. Suspected and confirmed cases were isolated quickly even during the rapid expansion of the epidemic and identification of the Shincheonji cluster. South Korea swiftly scaled up testing capacity and was able to maintain case-based interventions throughout. However, individual case-based contact tracing, not associated with a specific cluster, was a relatively minor aspect of their control program, with cluster investigations accounting for a far higher proportion of cases: the underlying epidemic was driven by a series of linked clusters, with 48% of all cases in the Shincheonji cluster and 20% in other clusters. Case-based contacts currently account for only 11% of total cases. The high volume of testing and low number of deaths suggests that South Korea experienced a small epidemic of infections relative to other countries. Therefore, caution is needed in attempting to duplicate the South Korean response in settings with larger more generalized epidemics. Finding, testing and isolating cases that are linked to clusters may be more difficult in such settings.
Winskill P, Whittaker C, Walker P, et al., 2020, Report 22: Equity in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: an assessment of the direct and indirect impacts on disadvantaged and vulnerable populations in low- and lower middle-income countries, 22
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in low-income settings is likely to be more severe due to limited healthcare capacity. Within these settings, however, there exists unfair or avoidable differences in health among different groups in society – health inequities – that mean that some groups are particularly at risk from the negative direct and indirect consequences of COVID-19. The structural determinants of these are often reflected in differences by income strata, with the poorest populations having limited access to preventative measures such as handwashing. Their more fragile income status will also mean that they are likely to be employed in occupations that are not amenable to social-distancing measures, thereby further reducing their ability to protect themselves from infection. Furthermore, these populations may also lack access to timely healthcare on becoming ill. We explore these relationships by using large-scale household surveys to quantify the differences in handwashing access, occupation and hospital access with respect to wealth status in low-income settings. We use a COVID-19 transmission model to demonstrate the impact of these differences. Our results demonstrate clear trends that the probability of death from COVID-19 increases with increasing poverty. On average, we estimate a 32.0% (2.5th-97.5th centile 8.0%-72.5%) increase in the probability of death in the poorest quintile compared to the wealthiest quintile from these three factors alone. We further explore how risk mediators and the indirect impacts of COVID-19 may also hit these same disadvantaged and vulnerable the hardest. We find that larger, inter-generational households that may hamper efforts to protect the elderly if social distancing are associated with lower-income countries and, within LMICs, lower wealth status. Poorer populations are also more susceptible to food security issues - with these populations having the highest levels under-nourishment whilst also being
Mellan T, Hoeltgebaum H, Mishra S, et al., 2020, Report 21: Estimating COVID-19 cases and reproduction number in Brazil
Brazil is an epicentre for COVID-19 in Latin America. In this report we describe the Brazilian epidemicusing three epidemiological measures: the number of infections, the number of deaths and the reproduction number. Our modelling framework requires sufficient death data to estimate trends, and wetherefore limit our analysis to 16 states that have experienced a total of more than fifty deaths. Thedistribution of deaths among states is highly heterogeneous, with 5 states—São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro,Ceará, Pernambuco and Amazonas—accounting for 81% of deaths reported to date. In these states, weestimate that the percentage of people that have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 ranges from 3.3% (95%CI: 2.8%-3.7%) in São Paulo to 10.6% (95% CI: 8.8%-12.1%) in Amazonas. The reproduction number (ameasure of transmission intensity) at the start of the epidemic meant that an infected individual wouldinfect three or four others on average. Following non-pharmaceutical interventions such as school closures and decreases in population mobility, we show that the reproduction number has dropped substantially in each state. However, for all 16 states we study, we estimate with high confidence that thereproduction number remains above 1. A reproduction number above 1 means that the epidemic isnot yet controlled and will continue to grow. These trends are in stark contrast to other major COVID19 epidemics in Europe and Asia where enforced lockdowns have successfully driven the reproductionnumber below 1. While the Brazilian epidemic is still relatively nascent on a national scale, our resultssuggest that further action is needed to limit spread and prevent health system overload.
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