Collaborating Authors

Modeling infectious disease dynamics


The emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome–coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has offered the world a crash course in modern epidemiology, starting with lessons in case detection and exponential growth. It has also reminded scientists of the challenges of communicating effectively during uncertainty. The current pandemic has no parallel in modern history, but the new virus is following rules common to other pathogens. Principles derived from influenza virus infections and other infectious diseases offer confidence for two predictions: SARS-CoV-2 is probably here to stay, and the high transmission rate will continue to force a choice between widespread infection and social disruption, at least until a vaccine is available. The difficulty of this choice is amplified by uncertainty, common to other respiratory pathogens, about the factors driving transmission.

The impact of COVID-19 and strategies for mitigation and suppression in low- and middle-income countries


Lower-income countries have recognized the potential impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) from observing ongoing epidemics. Many have intervened quickly and early with measures to slow viral transmission, which may partly explain the low rates observed so far in these countries. Walker et al. calibrated a global model with country-specific data (see the Perspective by Metcalf et al. ). Despite the potentially protective effects of younger demographics, the closer intergenerational contact, limitations on health care facilities, and frequency of comorbidities in lower-income countries require sustained nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to avoid overwhelming health care capacity. As a result of strict NPIs, the protective effects of immunity will be reduced, and it will be important to improve testing capacity. Ensuring equitable provision of oxygen and—when they are ready—pharmaceutical interventions should be a global priority. Science , this issue p. [413][1]; see also p. [368][2] The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic poses a severe threat to public health worldwide. We combine data on demography, contact patterns, disease severity, and health care capacity and quality to understand its impact and inform strategies for its control. Younger populations in lower-income countries may reduce overall risk, but limited health system capacity coupled with closer intergenerational contact largely negates this benefit. Mitigation strategies that slow but do not interrupt transmission will still lead to COVID-19 epidemics rapidly overwhelming health systems, with substantial excess deaths in lower-income countries resulting from the poorer health care available. Of countries that have undertaken suppression to date, lower-income countries have acted earlier. However, this will need to be maintained or triggered more frequently in these settings to keep below available health capacity, with associated detrimental consequences for the wider health, well-being, and economies of these countries. [1]: /lookup/doi/10.1126/science.abc0035 [2]: /lookup/doi/10.1126/science.abd1668

Quantifying SARS-CoV-2 transmission suggests epidemic control with digital contact tracing


New analyses indicate that severe acute respiratory syndrome–coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is more infectious and less virulent than the earlier SARS-CoV-1, which emerged in China in 2002. Unfortunately, the current virus has greater epidemic potential because it is difficult to trace mild or presymptomatic infections. As no treatment is currently available, the only tools that we can currently deploy to stop the epidemic are contact tracing, social distancing, and quarantine, all of which are slow to implement. However imperfect the data, the current global emergency requires more timely interventions. Ferretti et al. explored the feasibility of protecting the population (that is, achieving transmission below the basic reproduction number) using isolation coupled with classical contact tracing by questionnaires versus algorithmic instantaneous contact tracing assisted by a mobile phone application. For prevention, the crucial information is understanding the relative contributions of different routes of transmission. A phone app could show how finite resources must be divided between different intervention strategies for the most effective control. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome–coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has clear potential for a long-lasting global pandemic, high fatality rates, and incapacitated health systems. Until vaccines are widely available, the only available infection prevention approaches are case isolation, contact tracing and quarantine, physical distancing, decontamination, and hygiene measures. To implement the right measures at the right time, it is of crucial importance to understand the routes and timings of transmission. We used key parameters of epidemic spread to estimate the contribution of different transmission routes with a renewal equation formulation, and analytically determined the speed and scale for effective identification and contact tracing required to stop the epidemic. We developed a mathematical model for infectiousness to estimate the basic reproductive number R0 and to quantify the contribution of different transmission routes.

Susceptible supply limits the role of climate in the early SARS-CoV-2 pandemic


In some quarters, it is hoped that increased humidity and higher temperatures over the Northern Hemisphere in the summer will snuff out the 2020 severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic. In reality, the situation is likely to be more complicated than that. Baker et al. used a climate-dependent epidemic model to simulate the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, testing different scenarios of climate dependence based on known coronavirus biology. Levels of susceptibility among the population remain the driving factor for the pandemic, and without effective control measures, the pandemic will persist in the coming months, causing severe outbreaks even in humid climates. Summer will not substantially limit pandemic growth. Science this issue p. [315][1] Preliminary evidence suggests that climate may modulate the transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Yet it remains unclear whether seasonal and geographic variations in climate can substantially alter the pandemic trajectory, given that high susceptibility is a core driver. Here, we use a climate-dependent epidemic model to simulate the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic by probing different scenarios based on known coronavirus biology. We find that although variations in weather may be important for endemic infections, during the pandemic stage of an emerging pathogen, the climate drives only modest changes to pandemic size. A preliminary analysis of nonpharmaceutical control measures indicates that they may moderate the pandemic-climate interaction through susceptible depletion. Our findings suggest that without effective control measures, strong outbreaks are likely in more humid climates and summer weather will not substantially limit pandemic growth. [1]: /lookup/doi/10.1126/science.abc2535

Population immunity is slowing down the pandemic in parts of the US

MIT Technology Review

The large number of people already infected with the coronavirus in the US has begun to act as a brake on the spread of the disease in hard-hit states. Millions of US residents have been infected by the virus that causes covid-19, and at least 160,000 are dead. One effect is that the pool of susceptible individuals has been depleted in many areas. After infection, it's believed, people become immune (at least for months), so they don't transmit the virus to others. This slows the pandemic down.