Improving mathematical modeling of interventions to prevent healthcare-associated infections by interrupting transmission or pathogens: How common modeling assumptions about colonized individuals impact intervention effectiveness estimates.


Mathematical models are used to gauge the impact of interventions for healthcare-associated infections. As with any analytic method, such models require many assumptions. Two common assumptions are that asymptomatically colonized individuals are more likely to be hospitalized and that they spend longer in the hospital per admission because of their colonization status. These assumptions have no biological basis and could impact the estimated effects of interventions in unintended ways. Therefore, we developed a model of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus transmission to explicitly evaluate the impact of these assumptions. We found that assuming that asymptomatically colonized individuals were more likely to be admitted to the hospital or spend longer in the hospital than uncolonized individuals biased results compared to a more realistic model that did not make either assumption. Results were heavily biased when estimating the impact of an intervention that directly reduced transmission in a hospital. In contrast, results were moderately biased when estimating the impact of an intervention that decolonized hospital patients. Our findings can inform choices modelers face when constructing models of healthcare-associated infection interventions and thereby improve their validity.

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