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Book review
Introduction to Infectious Disease Modelling
  1. Katy Turner
  1. Correspondence to Katy Turner, School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, UK; katy.turner{at}bristol.ac.uk

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Edited by Emilia Vynnycky, Richard White. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, paperback, June 2010, £32.95 (soft cover), pp 368. ISBN 13: 9780198565765, ISBN 10: 0198565763.

Mathematical models play an increasingly important role in our understanding of the epidemiology and control of infectious disease. An Introduction to Infectious Disease Modelling by Vynnycky and White aims to equip its readers with the knowledge and skills to develop and use their own models. The content draws on the authors' extensive experience teaching and developing the successful short course and MSc module at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The book is especially successful in its ambition to be accessible to non-mathematicians, including carefully worked step-by-step examples with clear explanations of the mathematical concepts as well as a useful ‘Basic maths’ reference section. The authors also use their own research experience to provide contemporary, real-life examples of the application of the different types of models described. The online resource of models and examples is an invaluable addition to the text content (http://anintroductiontoinfectiousdiseasemodelling.com/).

The book is divided into a logical sequence of chapters. After an introduction by Paul Fine, there are chapters discussing what a model is and how to set one up (2/3) and the dynamics that make infectious disease models so interesting (chapter 4). Next they consider some extensions of the simple models to include age structure (chapter 5) and stochastic effects (chapter 6). In chapter 7, the authors consider in more detail contact patterns between individuals that result in disease transmission. Chapter 8 considers models of curable sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV. Chapter 9 discusses some special topics including the effect of STI coinfection on HIV transmission. Each chapter has clearly stated aims and panels containing more detailed information that can be skipped through until required, which makes it easy to navigate through to the most relevant pieces of information. This book nicely fills in both the philosophical and technical details between the concept of mathematical modelling and its application.

This introduction bridges the mathematical gaps left by the classic Infectious Diseases of Humans by Anderson and May, as well as providing an update on methods and recent examples of model applications. Also recently published is Modelling Infectious Diseases in Humans and Animals by Keeling and Rohani (http://www.modelinginfectiousdiseases.org). This shares a similar format of providing detailed mathematical descriptions, online resources and model code. Inevitably, there is a fair amount of overlap, but the diseases and examples used are rather different. However, both are excellent, and the choice will likely come down to disease and preferred modelling environment. Vynnycky and White online models are provided in Excel and Berkeley Madonna rather than source code (Fortran, C or Matlab). For the readers of Sexually Transmitted Infections, Vynnycky and White is the clear choice for their comprehensive content on STI and HIV models.

This is an excellent text book and readers can be assured that ‘it does what it says on the tin’: provide a thorough introduction to infectious disease modelling. This book will be very useful to Masters and PhD students throughout their courses. I would certainly have found it very useful during my doctorate, especially as I do not have a background in engineering or maths. It will also be of interest to more experienced researchers, clinicians and policy makers who wish to gain a better understanding, as mathematical models play an increasingly important role in guiding control policy and interventions against infectious diseases. I will be turning to An Introduction to Infectious Disease Modelling for reference frequently for its clear explanations and topical worked examples. I recommend this book very highly to new students and more experienced colleagues alike.

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Footnotes

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.

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