In this context, the EpiFor and Epiwork projects jointly organized an International Workshop, with the tagline “Facing the challenge of infectious diseases”, aiming at gathering the most important experts in the field of infectious disease modeling. This is the second international workshop following the first event taking place in Turin at ISI Foundation in Fall 2008.
The organizing committee was formed by:
-Vittoria Colizza (INSERM, Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France and ISI, Torino, Italy)
-Gabriela Gomes (Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, Oeiras, Portugal)
-Stefano Merler (FBK Foundation, Trento, Italy)
-Daniela Paolotti (ISI Foundation, Torino, Italy)
-Alain-Jacques Valleron (INSERM, Université Pierre et Marie Curie and Hôpital Saint-Antoine, Paris, France)
-Alessandro Vespignani (Northeastern University, Boston, USA and ISI Foundation, Torino, Italy)
Workshop topics and attendance
The Workshop brought together experts in the field of infectious disease modeling to discuss the advances reached in the use of sophisticate modeling, computational approaches, and ICT applications in the area of infectious diseases. A special focus has been on methods for generating rapid parameter estimates, real time forecasting and the interface between policy making and modeling. A key aim of the workshop was also the discussion of the research priorities for the future of computational modeling and ICT applications in the analysis of infectious disease spreading.
The Workshop took place in the magnificent venue provided by Courmayeur and its surrounding landscape. Overall, the Workshop gathered around 70 researchers which attended the plenary sessions. More than 30 invited speakers, including some of the most prominent experts in medical epidemiology and infectious disease modeling, gave talks and seminars over three days, from January 18 to January 21, about the key topics of the meeting:
- Large Scale Stochastic Simulations;
- The Impact of Population Structure on Transmission;
- Surveillance and policy making;
- Evolution and Epidemiology.
Furthermore, the Workshop featured a 3-day long poster session that took place during the morning and afternoon breaks of each day, and 4 Round Tables.
The poster session featured more than 20 posters and represented a good occasion to interact with researchers and have informal and stimulating discussions on several topics including surveillance methods, software development, and mathematical models. The Round Tablesgathered the partecipants in lively discussions about four selected topics of special interest for the community:
- Models of livestock infectious diseases;
- Models and human public health policy;
- Models, data needs and forecasts.
EpiFor, in addition to the meeting organization, extensively contributed to the Workshop with a number of talks and posters.
On the second day of the workshop, Alessandro Vespignani, from Northeastern University, presented a talk during which he discussed the predictive power of large-scale data-driven models. He showed how it has been possible to achieve real-time forecasts with the Global Epidemic and Mobility model (GLEaM) during the unfolding of 2009 H1N1 pandemic, a work that has been carried out within the EpiFor project. In particular, his presentation illustrated the side by side comparison between the epidemiological surveillance data for the H1N1 pandemic peak of more than 40 countries in the Northern Hemisphere (collected by Michele Tizzoni) and the model predictions obtained in real-time and in the aftermath of the event, when additional information (such as serological data, detailed timing and coverage of vaccination campaigns, etc) were made available. By using an intensive computational approach it has been possible to test the sensitivity of prediction intervals to the different levels of data integration by considering progressively increasing knowledge of human mobility data and airline transportation networks. The excellent agreement of the model prediction and the surveillance data demonstrated the usefulness of GLEaM in facing the emergence of a pandemic event while the sensitivity analysis finally showed the importance of including the full airline transportation database pointing out the limitations of leveraging on a sampled dataset.
On the same day, in the afternoon, Vittoria Colizza contributed to a Round Table about Models of livestock infectious diseases. The Round Table gathered a panel of experts in veterinary medicine and livestock disease modeling. The discussion, chaired by Armando Giovannini from the Istituto Zooprofilattico of Teramo, revolved around the needs for an effective supranational preparedness against emerging zoonoses. In particular, the discussants agreed on the importance of data gathering and sharing in order to better coordinate all the research efforts in this field. The EpiFor project contributed with its expertise in data-driven modeling of livestock diseases, being currently involved in the analysis of a large dataset of bovine displacements in Italy.
On the third day of the workshop, Alessandro Vespignani and Vittoria Colizza contributed to a Round Table discussion about Models and human public health policy. The Round Table, chaired by Nikolaos Stilianakis of the European Commission Joint Research Center, debated about the interaction between modelers and epidemiologists on one side and public health agencies on the other, and focused mainly on the case of the recent H1N1 pandemic. The discussion pointed out the relevant efforts that, at that time, allowed a fruitful collaboration between epidemiologists and public health agencies; however everyone agreed on the strong need for an increased communication and data sharing in order to plan a prompt and effective response to pandemic emergencies.
Eventually, the EpiFor team contributed to the poster session with five posters dedicated to the research projects currently carried out within the project.
Andrea Apolloni presented a theoretical work done in collaboration with the EpiFor team on the impact of heterogeneities in the travel frequency and contact pattern of individuals on the geographical spread of infectious diseases.
Paolo Bajardi presented a poster titled Seeds clustering and sentinel identification for disease spreading on dynamical networks, illustrating a work on the epidemiological implications of the dynamical structure of the Italian cattle trade network.
Chiara Poletto presented a poster titled Heterogeneous length of stay of hosts’ movements and spatial epidemics spread on a theoretical and computational analysis of the impact on the epidemic invasion of the observed heterogeneities in the hosts’ trip durations.
Michele Tizzoni’s poster focused on the study of the impact of travel restrictions in delaying and containing the spreading of an epidemic. The study combines a theoretical analysis with a computational modeling work and, by considering the recent H1N1 pandemic as paradigmatic example, shows the scarce effectiveness of such an intervention measure.
Finally, Corrado Gioannini presented a poster titled Integrating the GLEaMviz Simulator tool with the Epidemic Marketplace platform, describing the integration of the GLEaMviz simulator with the Epidemic Marketplace information platform carried out within the Epiwork project. The occasion also allowed Corrado to offer a hands-on exhibition of the GLEaMviz Simulator by showing the tool and its most recent developments and added capabilities.