|New Software To Aid Early Detection of Infectious
A newly released software program will let health authorities
at the site of an infectious disease outbreak quickly analyze data,
speeding the detection of new cases and the implementation of effective
The program, called TranStat, was developed by a team of epidemiologists
and computer scientists from the Models of Infectious Disease Agent
Study (MIDAS), an international program supported by the National
Institutes of Health (NIH) to build computational models for studying
"A main goal of MIDAS is to make the models developed by
the researchers available to the public health community and policymakers," said
Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of General
Medical Sciences, the NIH component that funds MIDAS. "TranStat
is a great example of how MIDAS is providing tools to help communities
prepare for emerging infectious disease outbreaks."
Available for free and downloadable at http://www.midasmodels.org,
TranStat can be used by public health officials to systematically
enter and store infectious disease data. These data include details
about the infected individuals, such as their sex, age, and onset
of symptoms; their close contacts; and any interventions they might
have received. The program also prompts the field personnel to
enter details about exposed but uninfected individuals. The system
does not collect names or other personally identifying information.
The computer program uses this information to statistically determine
the probability that people contracted the disease from each other,
a driving factor in the spread of infections. TranStat also estimates
in real time the average number of people an individual could infect
and the rate at which that infection occurs in a particular setting.
This information can help health officials develop and swiftly
implement strategies that thwart further spread while they conduct
"We've made TranStat portable and easy to use, so field officers
can enter, edit, and analyze data as an outbreak progresses," said
Diane Wagener, Ph.D., a program manager at RTI International, an
independent, nonprofit research organization in Research Triangle
Park, N.C., which helped develop the user interface.
Ira Longini, Ph.D., a biostatistician at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer
Research Center and the University of Washington in Seattle, directed
the research behind TranStat. He and his research team have used
the underlying methods and software to determine that the H5N1
avian flu virus probably spread between members of an extended
family in Indonesia in 2006. According to the results published
in the September 2007 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases,
the transmission was not sustained.
"The faster we learn about emerging infectious diseases and
their characteristics, the quicker we can contain and mitigate
them," said Longini. "TranStat will help us do this by
standardizing data collection and analysis."
Future software enhancements that will allow field personnel to
enter more refined data about the affected population and their
social networks are under way.
To learn more about MIDAS, visit http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Initiatives/MIDAS/ or
contact the NIGMS Office of Communications and Public Liaison at
supports basic biomedical research that is the foundation for advances
in disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and
Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting
and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research,
and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both
common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and
its programs, visit www.nih.gov.