Dynamics of infectious diseases

Rep Prog Phys. 2014;77(2):026602. doi: 10.1088/0034-4885/77/2/026602. Epub 2014 Jan 20.


Modern infectious disease epidemiology has a strong history of using mathematics both for prediction and to gain a deeper understanding. However the study of infectious diseases is a highly interdisciplinary subject requiring insights from multiple disciplines, in particular a biological knowledge of the pathogen, a statistical description of the available data and a mathematical framework for prediction. Here we begin with the basic building blocks of infectious disease epidemiology--the SIS and SIR type models--before considering the progress that has been made over the recent decades and the challenges that lie ahead. Throughout we focus on the understanding that can be developed from relatively simple models, although accurate prediction will inevitably require far greater complexity beyond the scope of this review. In particular, we focus on three critical aspects of infectious disease models that we feel fundamentally shape their dynamics: heterogeneously structured populations, stochasticity and spatial structure. Throughout we relate the mathematical models and their results to a variety of real-world problems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Communicable Diseases / transmission*
  • Epidemics
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Spatial Analysis
  • Stochastic Processes