Modelling sexually transmitted infections: less is usually more for informing public health policy
ABSTRACT Mathematical models have been used to investigate the dynamics of infectious disease transmission since Bernoulli's smallpox modelling in 1760. Their use has become widespread for exploring how epidemics can be prevented or contained. Here we discuss the importance of modelling the dynamics of sexually transmitted infections, the technology-driven dichotomy in methodology, and the need to 'keep it simple' to explore sensitivity, to link the models to reality and to provide understandable mechanistic explanations for real-world policy-makers. The aim of models, after all, is to influence or change public health policy by providing rational forecasting based on sound scientific principles.
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ABSTRACT: The UNAIDS Modes of Transmission Model (MoT) is a user-friendly model, developed to predict the distribution of new HIV infections among different subgroups. The model has been used in 29 countries to guide interventions. However, there is the risk that the simplification inherent in the MoT produces misleading findings. Using input data from Nigeria, we compare projections from the MoT with those from a revised model that incorporates additional heterogeneity. We revised the MoT to explicitly incorporate brothel and street-based sex-work, transactional sex, and HIV-discordant couples. Both models were parameterized using behavioural and epidemiological data from Cross River State, Nigeria. Model projections were compared, and the robustness of the revised model projections to different model assumptions, was investigated. The original MoT predicts 21% of new infections occur in most-at-risk-populations (MARPs), compared with 45% (40-75%, 95% Crl) once additional heterogeneity and updated parameterization is incorporated. Discordant couples, a subgroup previously not explicitly modelled, are predicted to contribute a third of new HIV infections. In addition, the new findings suggest that women engaging in transactional sex may be an important but previously less recognised risk group, with 16% of infections occurring in this subgroup. The MoT is an accessible model that can inform intervention priorities. However, the current model may be potentially misleading, with our comparisons in Nigeria suggesting that the model lacks resolution, making it challenging for the user to correctly interpret the nature of the epidemic. Our findings highlight the need for a formal review of the MoT.AIDS (London, England) 08/2013; DOI:10.1097/01.aids.0000432476.22616.2f · 6.56 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Partner notification is essential to the comprehensive case management of sexually transmitted infections. Systematic reviews and mathematical modelling can be used to synthesise information about the effects of new interventions to enhance the outcomes of partner notification. To study the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of traditional and new partner notification technologies for curable sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Secondary data analysis of clinical audit data; systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials (MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials) published from 1 January 1966 to 31 August 2012 and of studies of health-related quality of life (HRQL) [MEDLINE, EMBASE, ISI Web of Knowledge, NHS Economic Evaluation Database (NHS EED), Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE) and Health Technology Assessment (HTA)] published from 1 January 1980 to 31 December 2011; static models of clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness; and dynamic modelling studies to improve parameter estimation and examine effectiveness. General population and genitourinary medicine clinic attenders. Heterosexual women and men. Traditional partner notification by patient or provider referral, and new partner notification by expedited partner therapy (EPT) or its UK equivalent, accelerated partner therapy (APT). Population prevalence; index case reinfection; and partners treated per index case. Enhanced partner therapy reduced reinfection in index cases with curable STIs more than simple patient referral [risk ratio (RR) 0.71; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.56 to 0.89]. There are no randomised trials of APT. The median number of partners treated for chlamydia per index case in UK clinics was 0.60. The number of partners needed to treat to interrupt transmission of chlamydia was lower for casual than for regular partners. In dynamic model simulations, > 10% of partners are chlamydia positive with look-back periods of up to 18 months. In the presence of a chlamydia screening programme that reduces population prevalence, treatment of current partners achieves most of the additional reduction in prevalence attributable to partner notification. Dynamic model simulations show that cotesting and treatment for chlamydia and gonorrhoea reduce the prevalence of both STIs. APT has a limited additional effect on prevalence but reduces the rate of index case reinfection. Published quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) weights were of insufficient quality to be used in a cost-effectiveness study of partner notification in this project. Using an intermediate outcome of cost per infection diagnosed, doubling the efficacy of partner notification from 0.4 to 0.8 partners treated per index case was more cost-effective than increasing chlamydia screening coverage. There is evidence to support the improved clinical effectiveness of EPT in reducing index case reinfection. In a general heterosexual population, partner notification identifies new infected cases but the impact on chlamydia prevalence is limited. Partner notification to notify casual partners might have a greater impact than for regular partners in genitourinary clinic populations. Recommendations for future research are (1) to conduct randomised controlled trials using biological outcomes of the effectiveness of APT and of methods to increase testing for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and STIs after APT; (2) collection of HRQL data should be a priority to determine QALYs associated with the sequelae of curable STIs; and (3) standardised parameter sets for curable STIs should be developed for mathematical models of STI transmission that are used for policy-making. The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme.01/2014; 18(2):1-100. DOI:10.3310/hta18020
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ABSTRACT: Partner notification (PN or contact tracing) is an important aspect of treating bacterial sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as Chlamydia trachomatis. It facilitates the identification of new infected cases that can be treated through individual case management. PN also acts indirectly by limiting onward transmission in the general population. However, the impact of PN, both at the level of individuals and the population, remains unclear. Since it is difficult to study the effects of PN empirically, mathematical and computational models are useful tools for investigating its potential as a public health intervention. To this end, we developed an individual-based modeling framework called Rstisim. It allows the implementation of different models of STI transmission with various levels of complexity and the reconstruction of the complete dynamic sexual partnership network over any time period. A key feature of this framework is that we can trace an individual's partnership history in detail and investigate the outcome of different PN strategies for C. trachomatis. For individual case management, the results suggest that notifying three or more partners from the preceding 18 months yields substantial numbers of new cases. In contrast, the successful treatment of current partners is most important for preventing re-infection of index cases and reducing further transmission of C. trachomatis at the population level. The findings of this study demonstrate the difference between individual and population level outcomes of public health interventions for STIs.PLoS ONE 12/2012; 7(12):e51438. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0051438 · 3.53 Impact Factor