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Inference of the infection status of individuals using longitudinal testing data from cryptic populations: Towards a probabilistic approach to diagnosis

Buzdugan S.N., Vergne T., Grosbois V., Delahay R.J., Drewe J.. 2017. Scientific Reports, 7 : 11 p..

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-00806-4

Effective control of many diseases requires the accurate detection of infected individuals. Confidently ascertaining whether an individual is infected can be challenging when diagnostic tests are imperfect and when some individuals go for long periods of time without being observed or sampled. Here, we use a multi-event capture-recapture approach to model imperfect observations of true epidemiological states. We describe a method for interpreting potentially disparate results from individuals sampled multiple times over an extended period, using empirical data from a wild badger population naturally infected with Mycobacterium bovis as an example. We examine the effect of sex, capture history and current and historical diagnostic test results on the probability of being truly infected, given any combination of diagnostic test results. In doing so, we move diagnosis away from the traditional binary classification of apparently infected versus uninfected to a probability-based interpretation which is updated each time an individual is re-sampled. Our findings identified temporal variation in infection status and suggest that capture probability is influenced by year, season and infection status. This novel approach to combining ecological and epidemiological data may aid disease management decision-making by providing a framework for the integration of multiple diagnostic test data with other information.

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