by Edwin Michael, Swarnali Sharma, Morgan E. Smith, Panayiota Touloupou, Federica Giardina, Joaquin M. Prada, Wilma A. Stolk, Deirdre Hollingsworth, Sake J. de Vlas
Mathematical models are increasingly being used to evaluate strategies aiming to achieve the control or elimination of parasitic diseases. Recently, owing to growing realization that process-oriented models are useful for ecological forecasts only if the biological processes are well defined, attention has focused on data assimilation as a means to improve the predictive performance of these models.
Methodology and principal findings
We report on the development of an analytical framework to quantify the relative values of various longitudinal infection surveillance data collected in field sites undergoing mass drug administrations (MDAs) for calibrating three lymphatic filariasis (LF) models (EPIFIL, LYMFASIM, and TRANSFIL), and for improving their predictions of the required durations of drug interventions to achieve parasite elimination in endemic populations. The relative information contribution of site-specific data collected at the time points proposed by the WHO monitoring framework was evaluated using model-data updating procedures, and via calculations of the Shannon information index and weighted variances from the probability distributions of the estimated timelines to parasite extinction made by each model. Results show that data-informed models provided more precise forecasts of elimination timelines in each site compared to model-only simulations. Data streams that included year 5 post-MDA microfilariae (mf) survey data, however, reduced each model’s uncertainty most compared to data streams containing only baseline and/or post-MDA 3 or longer-term mf survey data irrespective of MDA coverage, suggesting that data up to this monitoring point may be optimal for informing the present LF models. We show that the improvements observed in the predictive performance of the best data-informed models may be a function of temporal changes in inter-parameter interactions. Such best data-informed models may also produce more accurate predictions of the durations of drug interventions required to achieve parasite elimination.
Knowledge of relative information contributions of model only versus data-informed models is valuable for improving the usefulness of LF model predictions in management decision making, learning system dynamics, and for supporting the design of parasite monitoring programmes. The present results further pinpoint the crucial need for longitudinal infection surveillance data for enhancing the precision and accuracy of model predictions of the intervention durations required to achieve parasite elimination in an endemic location.
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