Phylodynamic Analysis of Ebola Virus in the 2014 Sierra Leone Epidemic


Background: The Ebola virus (EBOV) epidemic in Western Africa is the largest in recorded history and control efforts have so far failed to stem the rapid growth in the number of infections. Mathematical models serve a key role in estimating epidemic growth rates and the reproduction number (R0) from surveillance data and, recently, molecular sequence data. Phylodynamic analysis of existing EBOV time-stamped sequence data may provide independent estimates of the unobserved number of infections, reveal recent epidemiological history, and provide insight into selective pressures acting upon viral genes.

Methods: We fit a series mathematical models of infectious disease dynamics to phylogenies estimated from 78 whole EBOV genomes collected from distinct patients in May and June of 2014 in Sierra Leone, and perform evolutionary analysis on these genomes combined with closely related EBOV genomes from previous outbreaks. Two analyses are conducted with values of the latent period that have been used in recent modelling efforts. We also examined the EBOV sequences for evidence of possible episodic adaptive molecular evolution during the 2014 outbreak.

Results: We find evidence for adaptive evolution affecting L and GP protein coding regions of the EBOV genome, which is unlikely to bias molecular clock and phylodynamic analyses. We estimate R0=2.40 (95% HPD:1.54-3.87 ) if the mean latent period is 5.3 days, and R0=3.81, (95% HPD:2.47-6.3) if the mean latent period is 12.7 days. The estimated coefficient of variation (CV) of the number of transmissions per infected host is very high, and a large proportion of infections yield no transmissions.

Conclusions: Estimates of R0 are sensitive to the unknown latent infectious period which can not be reliably estimated from genetic data alone. EBOV phylogenies show significant evidence for superspreading and extreme variance in the number of transmissions per infected individual during the early epidemic in Sierra Leone.

Modeling the Impact of Interventions on an Epidemic of Ebola in Sierra Leone and Liberia


Background: An Ebola outbreak of unparalleled size is currently affecting several countries in West Africa, and international efforts to control the outbreak are underway. However, the efficacy of these interventions, and their likely impact on an Ebola epidemic of this size, is unknown. Forecasting and simulation of these interventions may inform public health efforts.

Methods: We use existing data from Liberia and Sierra Leone to parameterize a mathematical model of Ebola and use this model to forecast the progression of the epidemic, as well as the efficacy of several interventions, including increased contact tracing, improved infection control practices, the use of a hypothetical pharmaceutical intervention to improve survival in hospitalized patients.

Findings: Model forecasts until Dec. 31, 2014 show an increasingly severe epidemic with no sign of having reached a peak. Modeling results suggest that increased contact tracing, improved infection control, or a combination of the two can have a substantial impact on the number of Ebola cases, but these interventions are not sufficient to halt the progress of the epidemic. The hypothetical pharmaceutical intervention, while impacting mortality, had a smaller effect on the forecasted trajectory of the epidemic.

Interpretation: Near-term, practical interventions to address the ongoing Ebola epidemic may have a beneficial impact on public health, but they will not result in the immediate halting, or even obvious slowing of the epidemic. A long-term commitment of resources and support will be necessary to address the outbreak.

On the Quarantine Period for Ebola Virus


21 days has been regarded as the appropriate quarantine period for holding individuals potentially exposed to Ebola Virus (EV) to reduce risk of contagion. There does not appear to be a systematic discussion of the basis for this period.

The prior estimates for incubation time to EV were examined, along with data on the first 9 months of the current outbreak. These provided estimates of the distribution of incubation times.

A 21 day period for quarantine may result in the release of individuals with a 0.2 – 12% risk of release prior to full opportunity for the incubation to proceed. It is suggested that a detailed cost-benefit assessment, including considering full transmission risks, needs to occur in order to determine the appropriate quarantine period for potentially exposed individuals.

Insights into the Early Epidemic Spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone Provided by Viral Sequence Data


Background and Methodology:
The current Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa has been spreading at least since December 2013. The first confirmed case of Ebola virus in Sierra Leone was identified on May 25. Based on viral genetic sequencing data from 72 individuals in Sierra Leone collected between the end of May and mid June, we utilize a range of phylodynamic methods to estimate the basic reproductive number (R0). We additionally estimate the expected lengths of the incubation and infectious periods of the virus. Finally, we use phylogenetic trees to examine the role played by population structure in the epidemic.

The median estimates of R0 based on sequencing data alone range between 1.65-2.18, with the most plausible model yielding a median R0 of 2.18 (95% HPD 1.24-3.55). Importantly, our results indicate that, at least until mid June, relief efforts in Sierra Leone were ineffective at lowering the effective reproductive number of the virus. We estimate the expected length of the infectious period to be 2.58 days (median; 95% HPD 1.24-6.98). The dataset appears to be too small in order to estimate the incubation period with high certainty (median expected incubation period 4.92 days; 95% HPD 2.11-23.20). While our estimates of the duration of infection tend to be smaller than previously reported, phylodynamic analyses support a previous estimate that 70% of cases were observed and included in the present dataset. The dataset is too small to show a particular population structure with high significance, however our preliminary analyses suggest that half the population is spreading the virus with an R0 well above 2, while the other half of the population is spreading with an R0 below 1.

Overall we show that sequencing data can robustly infer key epidemiological parameters. Such estimates inform public health officials and help to coordinate effective public health efforts. Thus having more sequencing data available for the ongoing Ebola virus epidemic and at the start of new outbreaks will foster a quick understanding of the dynamics of the pathogen.

Commentary: Containing the Ebola Outbreak – the Potential and Challenge of Mobile Network Data


Commentary The ongoing Ebola outbreak is taking place in one of the most highly connected and densely populated regions of Africa (Figure 1A). Accurate information on population movements is valuable for monitoring the progression of the outbreak and predicting its future spread, facilitating the prioritization of interventions and designing surveillance and containment strategies. Vital questions [...]

Contributing and Terminating Factors of a Large RSV Outbreak in an Adult Hematology and Transplant Unit


Background: In January 2012, an increase of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections on an adult hematology and transplant unit in a German university hospital was detected. We investigated the outbreak to assess its timing and extent and to identify risk factors for transmission.

Methods: We tested and typed patient samples pro- and retrospectively for RSV. We conducted a cohort and a case-control study. A confirmed outbreak case had laboratory-diagnosed, nosocomially-acquired RSV infection. Possible outbreak cases had pneumonia but were not laboratory-confirmed.

Results: Of 53 outbreak cases, 36 (68%) were confirmed and 17 (32%) possible. Retrospective testing and chart review dated the beginning of the outbreak to November 2011. Patients with community-acquired RSV infection were identified when the community epidemic began in January 2012. In multivariable analysis (controlling for contact with medical personnel, hygiene behaviour and age) patients with active social behaviour were more at risk for RSV infection (odds ratio 23.8, 95% confidence interval, 1.3 to 434.9; p-value, 0.03). Confirmed outbreak cases were more likely than controls to have been accomodated together with a confirmed or possible case before their onset of illness (OR 9.3, 95%CI: 2.1-85.1; p<0.001). Control measures, including isolation of every patient in the unit, initiated until the end of January terminated the outbreak.

Conclusions: Epidemiological investigations revealed co-accomodation with a case-patient and active social behaviour as likely risk factors for RSV infection. Awareness of and vigorous testing for respiratory viruses in immunosuppressed hospitalised patients is necessary to timely detect cases with outbreak potential. Isolation of patients with respiratory infectious illnesses is crucial to prevent the continuation or occurrence of outbreaks.

Temporal Variations in the Effective Reproduction Number of the 2014 West Africa Ebola Outbreak


The rapidly evolving 2014 Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa is the largest documented in history, both in terms of the number of people infected and in the geographic spread. The high morbidity and mortality have inspired response strategies to the outbreak at the individual, regional, and national levels. Methods to provide real-time assessment of changing transmission dynamics are critical to the understanding of how these adaptive intervention measures have affected the spread of the outbreak.

In this analysis, we use the time series of EVD cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia up to September 8, 2014, and employ novel methodology to estimate how the rate of exponential rise of new cases has changed over the outbreak using piecewise fits of exponential curves to the outbreak data.

We find that for Liberia and Guinea, the effective reproduction number rose, rather than fell, around the time that the outbreak spread to densely populated cities, and enforced quarantine was imposed on several regions in the countries; this may indicate that enforced quarantine may not be an effective control measure.

If effective control measures are not put in place, and the current rate of exponential rise of new cases continues, we predict 4400 new Ebola cases in West Africa during the last half of the month of September, with an upper 95% confidence level of 6800 new cases.

Early Epidemic Dynamics of the West African 2014 Ebola Outbreak: Estimates Derived with a Simple Two-Parameter Model


The 2014 West African Ebola virus outbreak, now more correctly referred to as an epidemic, is the largest ever to occur. As of August 28, 2014, concerns have been raised that control efforts, particularly in Liberia, have been ineffective, as reported case counts continue to increase. Limited data are available on the epidemiology of the outbreak. However, reported cumulative incidence data as well as death counts are available for Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. We utilized a simple, two parameter mathematical model of epidemic growth and control, to characterize epidemic growth patterns in West Africa, to evaluate the degree to which the epidemic is being controlled, and to assess the potential implications of growth patterns for epidemic size. Models demonstrated good fits to data. Overall basic reproductive number (R0) for the epidemic was estimated to be between 1.6 and 2.0, consistent with prior outbreaks. However, we identified only weak evidence for the occurrence of epidemic control in West Africa as a whole, and essentially no evidence for control in Liberia (though slowing of growth was seen in Guinea and Sierra Leone). It is projected that small reductions in transmission would prevent tens of thousands of future infections. These findings suggest that there is an extraordinary need for improved control measures for the 2014 Ebola epidemic, especially in Liberia, if catastrophe is to be averted.

Molecular Investigation of 2013 Dengue Fever Outbreak from Delhi, India


Dengue fever is a self-limiting, acute febrile disease which may aggravate to haemorrhage, plasma leakage and organ impairment in small number of cases. An outbreak of dengue fever occurred in Delhi, India after rainy season in the year 2013. Dengue virus specific RT-PCR was carried out on 378 suspected blood samples that were collected during the outbreak. Dengue virus was detected in 71% samples with highest number of patients infected by DENV-2 (86%) followed by DENV-1 (19 %) and DENV-3 (8%). Co-infection with more than one DENV serotype was detected in 14% samples. Twenty nine DENV strains (10 DENV-1, 12 DENV-2 and 7 DENV-3) were sequenced for partial envelope protein gene. Phylogenetic analysis grouped DENV-1 strains in the American African genotype, DENV-2 strains in the Cosmopolitan genotype and DENV-3 in Genotype III. We report the serotype distribution, circulating genotypes and partial envelope protein gene sequence of 29 DENV strains detected during 2013 outbreak in Delhi, India.

Assessing the International Spreading Risk Associated with the 2014 West African Ebola Outbreak


Background: The 2014 West African Ebola Outbreak is so far the largest and deadliest recorded in history. The affected countries, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, and Nigeria, have been struggling to contain and to mitigate the outbreak. The ongoing rise in confirmed and suspected cases, 2615 as of 20 August 2014, is considered to increase the risk of international dissemination, especially because the epidemic is now affecting cities with major commercial airports.

Method: We use the Global Epidemic and Mobility Model to generate stochastic, individual based simulations of epidemic spread worldwide, yielding, among other measures, the incidence and seeding events at a daily resolution for 3,362 subpopulations in 220 countries. The mobility model integrates daily airline passenger traffic worldwide and the disease model includes the community, hospital, and burial transmission dynamic. We use a multimodel inference approach calibrated on data from 6 July to the date of 9 August 2014. The estimates obtained were used to generate a 3-month ensemble forecast that provides quantitative estimates of the local transmission of Ebola virus disease in West Africa and the probability of international spread if the containment measures are not successful at curtailing the outbreak.

Results: We model the short-term growth rate of the disease in the affected West African countries and estimate the basic reproductive number to be in the range 1.5 − 2.0 (interval at the 1/10 relative likelihood). We simulated the international spreading of the outbreak and provide the estimate for the probability of Ebola virus disease case importation in countries across the world. Results indicate that the short-term (3 and 6 weeks) probability of international spread outside the African region is small, but not negligible. The extension of the outbreak is more likely occurring in African countries, increasing the risk of international dissemination on a longer time scale.