Bayesian inference of epidemiological parameters from transmission experiments

Epidemiological parameters for livestock diseases are often inferred from transmission experiments. However, there are several limitations inherent to the design of such experiments that limits the precision of parameter estimates. In particular, infection times and latent periods cannot be directly observed and infectious periods may also be censored. We present a Bayesian framework accounting for these features directly and employ Markov chain Monte Carlo techniques to provide robust inferences and quantify the uncertainty in our estimates. We describe the transmission dynamics using a susceptible-exposed-infectious-removed compartmental model, with gamma-distributed transition times. We then fit the model to published data from transmission experiments for foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) and African swine fever virus (ASFV). Where the previous analyses of these data made various assumptions on the unobserved processes in order to draw inferences, our Bayesian approach includes the unobserved infection times and latent periods and quantifies them along with all other model parameters. Drawing inferences about infection times helps identify who infected whom and can also provide insights into transmission mechanisms. Furthermore, we are able to use our models to measure the difference between the latent periods of inoculated and contact-challenged animals and to quantify the effect vaccination has on transmission.

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