Global Data Science Forum

Network Modelling in Epidemiology

By Moloy De posted Thu February 13, 2020 09:55 PM


Network theory is the study of graphs as a representation of either symmetric relations or asymmetric relations between discrete objects. In computer science and network science, network theory is a part of graph theory: a network can be defined as a graph in which nodes and/or edges have attributes.

Network theory has applications in many disciplines including statistical physics, particle physics, computer science, electrical engineering, biology, economics, finance, operations research, climatology, ecology, public health, and sociology. Applications of network theory include logistical networks, the World Wide Web, Internet, gene regulatory networks, metabolic networks, social networks, epistemological networks, etc.; see List of network theory topics for more examples.

Euler's solution of the Seven Bridges of Königsberg problem is considered to be the first true proof in the theory of networks.

With the recent explosion of publicly available high throughput biological data, the analysis of molecular networks has gained significant interest. The type of analysis in this context is closely related to social network analysis, but often focusing on local patterns in the network. For example, network motifs are small subgraphs that are over-represented in the network. Similarly, activity motifs are patterns in the attributes of nodes and edges in the network that are over-represented given the network structure. Using networks to analyse patterns in biological systems, such as food-webs, allows us to visualize the nature and strength of interactions between species. The analysis of biological networks with respect to diseases has led to the development of the field of network medicine. Recent examples of application of network theory in biology include applications to understanding the cell cycle as well as a quantitative framework for developmental processes. The interactions between physiological systems like brain, heart, eyes, etc. can be regarded as a physiological network.

Mathematical models can project how infectious diseases progress to show the likely outcome of an epidemic and help inform public health interventions. Models use some basic assumptions and mathematics to find parameters for various infectious diseases and use those parameters to calculate the effects of different interventions, like mass vaccination programmes. The modelling can help in deciding which intervention/s to avoid and which to trial.

The first scientist who systematically tried to quantify causes of death was John Graunt in his book Natural and Political Observations made upon the Bills of Mortality, in 1662. The bills he studied were listings of numbers and causes of deaths published weekly. Graunt's analysis of causes of death is considered the beginning of the "theory of competing risks" which according to Daley and Gani is "a theory that is now well established among modern epidemiologists".

The earliest account of mathematical modelling of spread of disease was carried out in 1766 by Daniel Bernoulli. Trained as a physician, Bernoulli created a mathematical model to defend the practice of inoculating against smallpox. The calculations from this model showed that universal inoculation against smallpox would increase the life expectancy from 26 years 7 months to 29 years 9 months. Daniel Bernoulli's work preceded the modern understanding of germ theory.

In the early 20th century, William Hamer and Ronald Ross applied the law of mass action to explain epidemic behaviour.

The 1920s saw the emergence of compartmental models. The Kermack–McKendrick epidemic model (1927) and the Reed–Frost epidemic model (1928) both describe the relationship between susceptible, infected and immune individuals in a population. The Kermack–McKendrick epidemic model was successful in predicting the behavior of outbreaks very similar to that observed in many recorded epidemics.


Question I: How could we train a Deep Learning model on public health data?

Question II: How is Network Modelling used in fighting Corona Virus?