Network inference from multimodal data: A review of approaches from infectious disease transmission

Bisakha Ray, Elodie Ghedin, Rumi Chunara

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Networks inference problems are commonly found in multiple biomedical subfields such as genomics, metagenomics, neuroscience, and epidemiology. Networks are useful for representing a wide range of complex interactions ranging from those between molecular biomarkers, neurons, and microbial communities, to those found in human or animal populations. Recent technological advances have resulted in an increasing amount of healthcare data in multiple modalities, increasing the preponderance of network inference problems. Multi-domain data can now be used to improve the robustness and reliability of recovered networks from unimodal data. For infectious diseases in particular, there is a body of knowledge that has been focused on combining multiple pieces of linked information. Combining or analyzing disparate modalities in concert has demonstrated greater insight into disease transmission than could be obtained from any single modality in isolation. This has been particularly helpful in understanding incidence and transmission at early stages of infections that have pandemic potential. Novel pieces of linked information in the form of spatial, temporal, and other covariates including high-throughput sequence data, clinical visits, social network information, pharmaceutical prescriptions, and clinical symptoms (reported as free-text data) also encourage further investigation of these methods. The purpose of this review is to provide an in-depth analysis of multimodal infectious disease transmission network inference methods with a specific focus on Bayesian inference. We focus on analytical Bayesian inference-based methods as this enables recovering multiple parameters simultaneously, for example, not just the disease transmission network, but also parameters of epidemic dynamics. Our review studies their assumptions, key inference parameters and limitations, and ultimately provides insights about improving future network inference methods in multiple applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-54
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • Bayesian inference
  • Infectious disease
  • Multimodal data
  • Network inference
  • Transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics


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