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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2007 Sep;5(9):700-9.

Modelling an outbreak of an emerging pathogen.

Author information

  • 1Semel Institute of Neuroscience & Human Behavior & Department of Psychiatry, UCLA AIDS Institute, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 1100 Glendon Avenue PH2, Los Angeles, California 90024, USA.


To illustrate the usefulness of mathematical models to the microbiology and medical communities, we explain how to construct and apply a simple transmission model of an emerging pathogen. We chose to model, as a case study, a large (>8,000 reported cases) on-going outbreak of community-acquired meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) in the Los Angeles County Jail. A major risk factor for CA-MRSA infection is incarceration. Here, we show how to design a within-jail transmission model of CA-MRSA, parameterize the model and reconstruct the outbreak. The model is then used to assess the severity of the outbreak, predict the epidemiological consequences of a catastrophic outbreak and design effective interventions for outbreak control.

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