The application of statistical network models in disease research
Methods in Ecology and Evolution
Wiley for British Ecological Society
© 2017 The Authors and Crown Copyright. Methods in Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Host social structure is fundamental to how infections spread and persist, and so the statistical modelling of static and dynamic social networks provides an invaluable tool to parameterise realistic epidemiological models. We present a practical guide to the application of network modelling frameworks for hypothesis testing related to social interactions and epidemiology, illustrating some approaches with worked examples using data from a population of wild European badgers Meles meles naturally infected with bovine tuberculosis. Different empirical network datasets generate particular statistical issues related to non-independence and sampling constraints. We therefore discuss the strengths and weaknesses of modelling approaches for different types of network data and for answering different questions relating to disease transmission. We argue that statistical modelling frameworks designed specifically for network analysis offer great potential in directly relating network structure to infection. They have the potential to be powerful tools in analysing empirical contact data used in epidemiological studies, but remain untested for use in networks of spatio-temporal associations. As a result, we argue that developments in the statistical analysis of empirical contact data are critical given the ready availability of dynamic network data from bio-logging studies. Furthermore, we encourage improved integration of statistical network approaches into epidemiological research to facilitate the generation of novel modelling frameworks and help extend our understanding of disease transmission in natural populations.
M.J.S. is funded by a NERC standard grant (NE/M004546/1) awarded to R.A.M., D.P.C., D.J.H. and M.B., with the APHA team at Woodchester Park, UK (lead scientist is R.J.D.) as project partners.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Wiley via the DOI in this record.
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as © 2017 The Authors and Crown Copyright. Methods in Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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