Integrating dynamical modeling and phylogeographic inference to characterize global influenza circulation

Parino F, Gustani-Buss E, Bedford T, Suchard MA, Trov√£o NS, Rambaut A, Colizza V, Poletto C, Lemey P. 2024. medRxiv: 2024.03.14.24303719.


Global seasonal influenza circulation involves a complex interplay between local (seasonality, demography, host immunity) and global factors (international mobility) shaping recurrent epidemic patterns. No studies so far have reconciled the two spatial levels, evaluating the coupling between national epidemics, considering heterogeneous coverage of epidemiological and virological data, integrating different data sources. We propose a novel combined approach based on a dynamical model of global influenza spread (GLEAM), integrating high-resolution demographic and mobility data, and a generalized linear model of phylogeographic diffusion that accounts for time-varying migration rates. Seasonal migration fluxes across global macro-regions simulated with GLEAM are tested as phylogeographic predictors to provide model validation and calibration based on genetic data. Seasonal fluxes obtained with a specific transmissibility peak time and recurrent travel outperformed the raw air-transportation predictor, previously considered as optimal indicator of global influenza migration. Influenza A subtypes supported autumn-winter reproductive number as high as 2.25 and an average immunity duration of 2 years. Similar dynamics were preferred by influenza B lineages, with a lower autumn-winter reproductive number. Comparing simulated epidemic profiles against FluNet data offered comparatively limited resolution power. The multiscale approach enables model selection yielding a novel computational framework for describing global influenza dynamics at different scales - local transmission and national epidemics vs. international coupling through mobility and imported cases. Our findings have important implications to improve preparedness against seasonal influenza epidemics. The approach can be generalized to other epidemic contexts, such as emerging disease out-breaks to improve the flexibility and predictive power of modeling.