Dynamical Processes in Complex Societies


The main role of disease surveillance is to predict, observe, and minimize the harm caused by outbreak, epidemic, and pandemic situations, as well as increase knowledge about which factors contribute to such circumstances. Computational models (mathematical models that require extensive computational resources to study the behavior of a complex system by computer simulation) of infectious diseases transmission may give insight into the main determinants of the spatio-temporal spread of infectious diseases and provide estimates of the expected impact of interventions, thus providing critical information to improve disease surveillance.

Contribution to research

The DPCS unit has an extensive range of scientific expertise in computational modelling of infectious diseases and epidemiology:
– development of large scale, individual based simulations of emerging infectious diseases;
– evaluation of mitigation/containment policies (e.g. vaccination, social distancing);
– evaluation of the effects of population heterogeneity (e.g. contact patterns, households structure) and human mobility (e.g international travels, work/school commuting);
– evaluation of the effects of demographic changes (e.g. fertility and mortality rates);
– evaluation of the effects of risk perception, vaccination choices and spontaneous behavioural changes on contact patterns;
– modelling of vector-borne diseases;
– modelling of host-pathogen immunological interaction and coinfection processes.

Contribution to impact

Providing Public Health authorities with critical information on the transmission dynamics of infectious diseases and on the likely effects of interventions represents the main expected impact of the research.

Key projects and results

“Improving the surveillance system and the control of infectious diseases in Ethiopia” aims at improving the surveillance system in the South West Shewa district of the Oromia region (Ethiopia) by investigating how demographic structure, contact patterns, mobility patterns shape the spread of infectious diseases (e.g. measles, malaria, tuberculosis). Building and training a local epidemiological investigation team is an integrant part of the project. The project is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Italian Government.
“ZIKAlliance” is a multinational and multi-disciplinary research consortium comprised of 53 partners worldwide and coordinated by Inserm, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research. ZIKAlliance is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme. The project will investigate clinical, fundamental, environmental and social aspects of ZIKV infection. In particular, ZIKAlliance will focus on the impact of ZIKV infection during pregnancy and the natural history of ZIKV in humans and their environment. In collaboration with two other EC funded consortia (ZikaPLAN and ZIKAction), ZIKAlliance will also work on the development of a preparedness platform in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Head of Unit