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HIV virus spread and evolution studied through computer modeling
Date:11/19/2013

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., November 19, 2013Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory are investigating the complex relationships between the spread of the HIV virus in a population (epidemiology) and the actual, rapid evolution of the virus (phylogenetics) within each patient's body.

"We have developed novel ways of estimating epidemics dynamics such as who infected whom, and the true population incidence of infection versus mere diagnoses dates," said Thomas Leitner, principal investigator. "Obviously, knowledge about these things is important for public health monitoring, decision making and intervention campaigns, and further to forensic investigations."

The team models the uninfected population using traditional differential equations on the computer; this is done for computational speed, because an agent-based component is much more demanding. Once a person is infected, he/she becomes an "agent" in computer modeling terms, and the model starts following their behavior individually, as well as the viral HIV evolution within the person.

Agent-based Modeling Clarifies Infection History

This new modeling approach distinguishes between susceptible and infected individuals to capture the full infection history, including contact tracing data for infected individuals. The uninfected individuals are modeled at a population level and stratified by transmission risk and social group. The social network in this model forms and can change during the simulation. Thus, the model is much more realistic than traditional models.

The advantage of this epidemiological model, Leitner said, is that "it allows us to simulate many possible outcomes of epidemics with known parameters of human interactions, where social networks form as part of the agent interactions. It is a flexible system that has the ability to describe realistic human populations."

Within a National Institutes of Health-supported project "Reconstr
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Contact: Nancy Ambrosiano
nwa@lanl.gov
505-667-0471
DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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