Non-Markovian epidemic dynamics on networks

Sherborne, Neil (2018) Non-Markovian epidemic dynamics on networks. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Download (6MB)


The use of networks to model the spread of epidemics through structured populations is widespread. However, epidemics on networks lead to intractable exact systems with the need to coarse grain and focus on some average quantities. Often, the underlying stochastic processes are Markovian and so are the resulting mean-field models constructed as systems of ordinary differential equations (ODEs). However, the lack of memory (or memorylessness) does not accurately describe real disease dynamics. For instance, many epidemiological studies have shown that the true distribution of the infectious period is rather centred around its mean, whereas the memoryless assumption imposes an exponential distribution on the infectious period. Assumptions such as these greatly affect the predicted course of an epidemic and can lead to inaccurate predictions about disease spread. Such limitations of existing approaches to modelling epidemics on networks motivated my efforts to develop non-Markovian models which would be better suited to capture essential realistic features of disease dynamics.

In the first part of my thesis I developed a pairwise, multi-stage SIR (susceptible-infected-recovered) model. Each infectious node goes through some K 2 N infectious stages, which for K > 1 means that the infectious period is gamma-distributed. Analysis of the model provided analytic expressions for the epidemic threshold and the expected final epidemic size. Using available epidemiological data on the infectious periods of various diseases, I demonstrated the importance of considering the shape of the infectious period distribution.

The second part of the thesis expanded the framework of non-Markovian dynamics to networks with heterogeneous degree distributions with non-negligible levels of clustering. These properties are ubiquitous in many real-world networks and make model development and analysis much more challenging. To this end, I have derived and analysed a compact pairwise model with the number of equations being independent of the range of node degrees, and investigated the effects of clustering on epidemic dynamics.

My thesis culminated with the third part where I explored the relationships between several different modelling methodologies, and derived an original non-Markovian Edge-Based Compartmental Model (EBCM) which allows both transmission and recovery to be arbitrary independent stochastic processes. The major result is a rigorous mathematical proof that the message passing (MP) model and the EBCM are equivalent, and thus, the EBCM is statistically exact on the ensemble of configuration model networks. From this consideration I derived a generalised pairwise-like model which I then used to build a model hierarchy, and to show that, given corresponding parameters and initial conditions, these models are identical to MP model or EBCM.

In the final part of my thesis I considered the important problem of coupling epidemic dynamics with changes in network structure in response to the perceived risk of the epidemic. This was framed as a susceptible-infected-susceptible (SIS) model on an adaptive network, where susceptible nodes can disconnect from infected neighbours and, after some fixed time delay, connect to a random susceptible node that they are not yet connected to. This model assumes that nodes have perfect information on the state of all other nodes. Robust oscillations were found in a significant region of the parameter space, including an enclosed region known as an 'endemic bubble'. The major contribution of this work was to show that oscillations can occur in a wide region of the parameter space, this is in stark contrast with most previous research where oscillations were limited to a very narrow region of the parameter space.

Any mathematical model is a simplification of reality where assumptions must be made. The models presented here show the importance of interrogating these assumptions to ensure that they are as realistic as possible while still being amenable to analysis.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences > Mathematics
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA0273 Probabilities. Mathematical statistics > QA0274.7 Markov processes. Markov chains
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2018 13:26
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2018 13:26

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update