Kinetics methods for clinical epidemiology problems

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Nov 17;112(46):14150-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1510927112. Epub 2015 Nov 2.


Calculating the probability of each possible outcome for a patient at any time in the future is currently possible only in the simplest cases: short-term prediction in acute diseases of otherwise healthy persons. This problem is to some extent analogous to predicting the concentrations of species in a reactor when knowing initial concentrations and after examining reaction rates at the individual molecule level. The existing theoretical framework behind predicting contagion and the immediate outcome of acute diseases in previously healthy individuals is largely analogous to deterministic kinetics of chemical systems consisting of one or a few reactions. We show that current statistical models commonly used in chronic disease epidemiology correspond to simple stochastic treatment of single reaction systems. The general problem corresponds to stochastic kinetics of complex reaction systems. We attempt to formulate epidemiologic problems related to chronic diseases in chemical kinetics terms. We review methods that may be adapted for use in epidemiology. We show that some reactions cannot fit into the mass-action law paradigm and solutions to these systems would frequently exhibit an antiportfolio effect. We provide a complete example application of stochastic kinetics modeling for a deductive meta-analysis of two papers on atrial fibrillation incidence, prevalence, and mortality.

Keywords: chemical kinetics; epidemiology; noncommunicable disease; paradigm; stochastic model.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Animals
  • Atrial Fibrillation / epidemiology*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Models, Biological*
  • Stochastic Processes