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Computing Diseases

Sim Sickness

Scientists are creating their own virtual worlds where people live and work—and get sick. Here, researchers can mimic viruses and predict the spread of contagious diseases through a community. Successful simulations can help us better prepare for real-life outbreaks.

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Antibiotic-resistant strain of Staphlyococcus aureus bacteria.On the Trail of Drug-Defying Superbugs | 6/13/14
Some of the bacteria that cause infections in humans have become resistant to the antibiotics we use to combat them. Here are a few examples of research projects, including one using computer models, that could aid efforts to curb the spread of antibiotic resistance.


Graph showing incidence of 56 infectious diseases in the United StatesNow Trending: Mining Historical Data on Infectious Diseases | 12/2/13
Researchers have collected, digitized and analyzed infectious disease data to uncover trends related to the availability of vaccines.

Sick man in bed blowing his nose.Forecasting Flu | 1/25/13
A technique that predicts when cities may experience the highest number of flu cases could aid preparedness efforts.

A representation of the structure of a generic flu virus. Credit: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Getting a Better Grasp on Flu Fundamentals | 11/26/12
Studying the molecular structure of the flu virus and modeling how flu infection can spread are aiding efforts to keep people from getting sick.

Michelle LeeQ&A: Michelle Lee, High School Epidemiologist | 12/13/11
Teenager Michelle Lee modeled the spread of an invasive skin bacteria among high school athletes.

Image of mosquitoComputing the Contagious | 9/9/11
Three new projects enlist the help of computers to help keep dengue fever, tuberculosis, H1N1 influenza and other contagious diseases under control.

Image of randomly placed houses within census blocksVirtual Populations Get More Real | 5/18/11
Mapping where people likely live within a virtual population helps modelers more realistically simulate the spread of infectious diseases.

This map, which was generated using climate and land cover data, shows the presence of the disease-carrying tsetse fly across the country of Kenya. Credit: Joseph Messina. Solving the Sleeping Sickness 'Mystery' | 2/21/11
Modeling tsetse fly distribution in Kenya may aid efforts to stop the spread of a deadly disease.

The matchbox-sized sensor device used to record the number of person-to-person interactions that could spread disease. Credit: Katrina Voss, Penn State University How Contagious Diseases Spread through Communities | 12/20/10
Tracking interactions at a high school reveals new insights into the role of social networks in disease spread.

H1N1 virus. Credit: C. S. Goldsmith and A. Balish Modeling H1N1: Then and Now | 9/23/10
Computational modelers continue to simulate how the H1N1 flu could spread.

In the cityCensus Data Aids Disease Simulation Studies | 3/31/10
Did you know that filling out your census card will also help computer scientists model how diseases spread in the United States?

Climatologist Jeffrey Shaman.Q&A: Jeffrey Shaman on Seasonal Flu and Humidity | 2/23/10
New modeling work indicates that absolute humidity is the main driver of seasonal flu outbreaks during the winter.

Irene EckstrandThe Science of Simulating Disease Spread
Part 3: The Future of Infectious Disease Modeling | 1/7/10
In the final part of the series, Irene Eckstrand discusses some of the future challenges of infectious disease modeling.

Part 2: Modeling the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic | 1/4/10
In the second part of the series, Irene Eckstrand explains how researchers develop and use disease spread models to help us prepare for and manage outbreaks.

Part 1: Why We Model Infectious Diseases | 12/28/09
In the first of a three-part series, modeling expert Irene Eckstrand discusses how modeling can help us understand and manage new infectious diseases.

Irene EckstrandResearch on a Mission: Five Years with MIDAS | 9/3/09
MIDAS director Irene Eckstrand talks about helping modelers and policymakers understand disease spread and containment.

Clumps of MRSA bacteria. Credit: Janice Haney CarrDisease Modeling Efforts Gain New Ground | 9/3/09
To help the nation—and the world—understand and prepare for contagious outbreaks, new research groups join the Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study.

Stephen Eubank. Credit: John McCormick, Virginia Tech Photo Department First Look: Policy Informatics | 8/24/09
Some computer modelers are giving their disease-spread simulations to policymakers to help them decide how to intervene in an outbreak.

H1N1 virus. Credit: C. S. Goldsmith and A. Balish Disease-Spread Modeling Gets Help from Facebook | 6/11/09
Researchers survey Facebook users to better understand how their decisions influence—and are influenced by—disease outbreaks.

Joshua Epstein10 Reasons to Model | 1/7/09
From explaining concepts to finding the simple within the complex, modeler Joshua Epstein offers ten reasons scientists make computer simulations.

A common flu strain migrates from East and Southeast Asia into the rest of the world annually from 2002-2007. Credit: NASA Visible Earth/Kristin WuichetFollowing Flu | 6/11/08
A new modeling technique called antigenic cartography traces flu's global spread, including its likely responsiveness to vaccine.

From the Print Issue

»  Preparing for a Pandemic
»  The Rise & Fall of Deadly Dengue

This page last reviewed on June 11, 2014