Modelling the seasonal epidemics of respiratory syncytial virus in young children

Moore HC, Jacoby P, Hogan AB, Blyth CC, Mercer GN. Modelling the seasonal epidemics of respiratory syncytial virus in young children.(2014) PLOS One 9(6):e100422.



Background: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a major cause of paediatric morbidity. Mathematical models can be used to characterise annual RSV seasonal epidemics and are a valuable tool to assess the impact of future vaccines. Objectives: Construct a mathematical model of seasonal epidemics of RSV and by fitting to a population-level RSV dataset, obtain a better understanding of RSV transmission dynamics. Methods: We obtained an extensive dataset of weekly RSV testing data in children aged less than 2 years, 2000–2005, for a birth cohort of 245,249 children through linkage of laboratory and birth record datasets. We constructed a seasonally forced compartmental age-structured Susceptible-Exposed-Infectious-Recovered-Susceptible (SEIRS) mathematical model to fit to the seasonal curves of positive RSV detections using the Nelder-Mead method. Results: From 15,830 specimens, 3,394 were positive for RSV. RSV detections exhibited a distinct biennial seasonal pattern with alternating sized peaks in winter months. Our SEIRS model accurately mimicked the observed data with alternating sized peaks using disease parameter values that remained constant across the 6 years of data. Variations in the duration of immunity and recovery periods were explored. The best fit to the data minimising the residual sum of errors was a model using estimates based on previous models in the literature for the infectious period and a slightly lower estimate for the immunity period. Conclusions: Our age-structured model based on routinely collected population laboratory data accurately captures the observed seasonal epidemic curves. The compartmental SEIRS model, based on several assumptions, now provides a validated base model. Ranges for the disease parameters in the model that could replicate the patterns in the data were identified. Areas for future model developments include fitting climatic variables to the seasonal parameter, allowing parameters to vary according to age and implementing a newborn vaccination program to predict the effect on RSV incidence. Citation: Moore HC, Jacoby P, Hogan AB, Blyth CC, Mercer GN (2014) Modelling the Seasonal Epidemics of Respiratory Syncytial Virus in Young Children. PLoS ONE 9(6): e100422. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100422 Editor: Richard J. Sugrue, Nanyang Technical University, United States of America Received December 16, 2013; Accepted May 27, 2014; Published June 26, 2014 Copyright:  2014 Moore et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Funding: HCM is funded by National Health and Medical Research Council Fellowship #1034254. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. * Email:

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