The estimation of the basic reproduction number for infectious diseases

Stat Methods Med Res. 1993;2(1):23-41. doi: 10.1177/096228029300200103.


The basic reproduction number R0 is the number of secondary cases which one case would produce in a completely susceptible population. It depends on the duration of the infectious period, the probability of infecting a susceptible individual during one contact, and the number of new susceptible individuals contacted per unit of time. Therefore R0 may vary considerably for different infectious diseases but also for the same disease in different populations. The key threshold result of epidemic theory associates the outbreaks of epidemics and the persistence of endemic levels with basic reproduction numbers greater than one. Because the magnitude of R0 allows one to determine the amount of effort which is necessary either to prevent an epidemic or to eliminate an infection from a population, it is crucial to estimate R0 for a given disease in a particular population. The present paper gives a survey about the various estimation methods available.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / transmission
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Basic Reproduction Number
  • Communicable Disease Control / methods
  • Communicable Diseases / drug therapy
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology
  • Communicable Diseases / microbiology
  • Communicable Diseases / transmission*
  • Demography
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological*
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Prevalence
  • Probability
  • Vaccination