Global efficiency of local immunization on complex networks

Département de Physique, de Génie Physique, et d'Optique, Université Laval, Québec (Québec), Canada G1V 0A6.
Scientific Reports (Impact Factor: 5.08). 07/2013; 3:2171. DOI: 10.1038/srep02171
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Epidemics occur in all shapes and forms: infections propagating in our sparse sexual networks, rumours and diseases spreading through our much denser social interactions, or viruses circulating on the Internet. With the advent of large databases and efficient analysis algorithms, these processes can be better predicted and controlled. In this study, we use different characteristics of network organization to identify the influential spreaders in 17 empirical networks of diverse nature using 2 epidemic models. We find that a judicious choice of local measures, based either on the network's connectivity at a microscopic scale or on its community structure at a mesoscopic scale, compares favorably to global measures, such as betweenness centrality, in terms of efficiency, practicality and robustness. We also develop an analytical framework that highlights a transition in the characteristic scale of different epidemic regimes. This allows to decide which local measure should govern immunization in a given scenario.

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    ABSTRACT: Understanding the epidemic dynamics, and finding out efficient techniques to control it, is a challenging issue. A lot of research has been done on targeted immunization strategies, exploiting various global network topological properties. However, in practice, information about the global structure of the contact network may not be available. Therefore, immunization strategies that can deal with a limited knowledge of the network structure are required. In this paper, we propose targeted immunization strategies that require information only at the community level. Results of our investigations on the SIR epidemiological model, using a realistic synthetic benchmark with controlled community structure, show that the community structure plays an important role in the epidemic dynamics. An extensive comparative evaluation demonstrates that the proposed strategies are as efficient as the most influential global centrality based immunization strategies, despite the fact that they use a limited amount of information. Furthermore, they outperform alternative local strategies, which are agnostic about the network structure, and make decisions based on random walks.

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