New Teams Join Network to Model Pandemic Flu, Other Infectious Outbreaks


Four new scientific teams joined an international research network developing computer-based simulations of pandemic flu and other infectious disease outbreaks, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), a component of the National Institutes of Health, announced today.

The network is part of the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study (MIDAS), an ongoing NIGMS effort to use computer modeling techniques to better understand the spread of contagious diseases and the potential impact of public health measures. The results could aid health officials and policymakers in developing preparedness plans for outbreaks that occur naturally or deliberately.

The new research groups will receive a total of approximately $7.8 million over the next five years and will collaborate with four existing MIDAS teams established in 2004.

The MIDAS network has already demonstrated the power of applying computer models to the study of disease spread and the effects of various intervention strategies, said Jeremy M. Berg, PhD, NIGMS director. The new MIDAS teams expand the networks spectrum of expertise and enhance its ability to develop robust models.

In addition to the individual research projects described below, the new MIDAS teams will contribute to the networks pandemic influenza modeling project. This project involves simulating outbreaks of a deadly flu strain in different regions of the world and then evaluating the effects of various intervention measures, such as vaccination or school closures, on containing or slowing disease spread.

The new MIDAS awards will support researchers at:

-- The University of California, Irvine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. This group will analyze past transfers of flu from birds to people and model the effects of rapid pathogen evolution on strategies for disease surveillance, prediction, and control.

-- The Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, the University of Hong Kong, the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands, and the University of Washington in Seattle. This team will use mathematical models to explore mechanisms of transmission, evaluate public health measures, and design methods for monitoring the early stages of an outbreak in real time.

-- The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia and the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom. This team will develop spatial and temporal models of infectious animal diseases, particularly those like avian influenza that can cross species barriers to infect people.

-- Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Harvard School of Public Health, and Brigham & Womens Hospital, all in Boston; Kaiser Permanente Northern California in Oakland, Calif.; and the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Argentina. This group will develop ways to identify new clusters of emerging infectious diseases and track antimicrobial resistance in hospitals and ambulatory settings. It also will optimize strategies for using patient care data from large health systems in infectious disease models.

Source: National Institutes of Health (NIH)

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