Building epidemiological models from R0: An implicit treatment of transmission in networks

Juan Pablo Aparicio, Mercedes Pascual

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Simple deterministic models are still at the core of theoretical epidemiology despite the increasing evidence for the importance of contact networks underlying transmission at the individual level. These mean-field or 'compartmental' models based on homogeneous mixing have made, and continue to make, important contributions to the epidemiology and the ecology of infectious diseases but fail to reproduce many of the features observed for disease spread in contact networks. In this work, we show that it is possible to incorporate the important effects of network structure on disease spread with a mean-field model derived from individual level considerations. We propose that the fundamental number known as the basic reproductive number of the disease, R 0, which is typically derived as a threshold quantity, be used instead as a central parameter to construct the model from. We show that reliable estimates of individual level parameters can replace a detailed knowledge of network structure, which in general may be difficult to obtain. We illustrate the proposed model with small world networks and the classical example of susceptible-infected-recovered (SIR) epidemics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-512
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1609
StatePublished - Feb 22 2007


  • Basic reproductive number
  • Epidemics
  • Mean-field models
  • Random networks
  • Small-world networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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