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Feb 22nd, 2019
On the predictability of infectious disease outbreaks
Samuel V. Scarpino & Giovanni Petri

Infectious disease outbreaks recapitulate biology: they emerge from the multi-level interaction of hosts, pathogens, and environment. Therefore, outbreak forecasting requires an integrative approach to modeling. While specific components of outbreaks are predictable, it remains unclear whether fundamental limits to outbreak prediction exist. Here, adopting permutation entropy as a model independent measure of predictability, we study the predictability of a diverse collection of outbreaks and identify a fundamental entropy barrier for disease time series forecasting. However, this barrier is often beyond the time scale of single outbreaks, implying prediction is likely to succeed. We show that forecast horizons vary by disease and that both shifting model structures and social network heterogeneity are likely mechanisms for differences in predictability. Our results highlight the importance of embracing dynamic modeling approaches, suggest challenges for performing model selection across long time series, and may relate more broadly to the predictability of complex adaptive systems.


Nature Communications, volume 10, Article number: 898 (2019)
May 3rd, 2019
Towards a solution to MERS: protective human monoclonal antibodies targeting different domains and functions of the MERS-coronavirus spike glycoprotein
Ivy Widjaja, Chunyan Wang, Rien van Haperen, Javier Gutiérrez-Álvarez, Brenda van Dieren, Nisreen M.A. Okba, V. Stalin Raj, Wentao Li, Raul Fernandez-Delgado, Frank Grosveld, Frank J. M. van Kuppeveld, Bart L. Haagmans, Luis Enjuanes, Dubravka Drabek ...

The Middle-East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a zoonotic virus that causes severe and often fatal respiratory disease in humans. Efforts to develop antibody-based therapies have focused on neutralizing antibodies that target the receptor binding domain of the viral spike protein thereby blocking receptor binding. Here, we developed a set of human monoclonal antibodies that target functionally distinct domains of the MERS-CoV spike protein. These antibodies belong to six distinct epitope groups and interfere with the three critical entry functions of the MERS-CoV spike protein: sialic acid binding, receptor binding and membrane fusion. Passive immunization with potently as well as with poorly neutralizing antibodies protected mice from lethal MERS-CoV challenge. Collectively, these antibodies offer new ways to gain humoral protection in humans against the emerging MERS-CoV by targeting different spike protein epitopes and functions.

DOI: 10.1080/22221751.2019.1597644
Emerging Microbes & Infections, 2019, 8:1, 516-530
Apr 26th, 2019
ZAPI: Finding new ways to fight new zoonoses

Zoonoses are infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans from animals (and vice versa). IMI's ZAPI project is working to create new platforms and technologies that will facilitate a fast, coordinated, and practical response to new infectious diseases as soon as they emerge. In the run-up to World Immunisation Week 2019, the IMI Programme Office caught up with ZAPI project coordinator Jean-Christophe Audonnet for an update on the project's progress so far.


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