Anticipating the emergence of infectious diseases

Journal of the Royal Society – Interface
01 July 2017; volume 14, issue 132

Life Sciences–Physics interface
Open Access
Research article:
Anticipating the emergence of infectious diseases
Tobias S. Brett, John M. Drake, Pejman Rohani
R. Soc. Interface 2017 14 20170115; DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2017.0115. Published 5 July 2017
In spite of medical breakthroughs, the emergence of pathogens continues to pose threats to both human and animal populations. We present candidate approaches for anticipating disease emergence prior to large-scale outbreaks. Through use of ideas from the theories of dynamical systems and stochastic processes we develop approaches which are not specific to a particular disease system or model, but instead have general applicability. The indicators of disease emergence detailed in this paper can be classified into two parallel approaches: a set of early-warning signals based around the theory of critical slowing down and a likelihood-based approach. To test the reliability of these two approaches we contrast theoretical predictions with simulated data. We find good support for our methods across a range of different model structures and parameter values.