Measurability of the epidemic reproduction number in data-driven contact networks

Quan-Hui Liu, Marco Ajelli, Alberto Aleta, Stefano Merler, Yamir Moreno, and Alessandro Vespignani


The analysis of real epidemiological data has raised issues of the adequacy of the classic homogeneous modeling framework and quantities, such as the basic reproduction number in real-world situations. Based on high-quality sociodemographic data, here we generate a multiplex network describing the contact pattern of the Italian and Dutch populations. By using a microsimulation approach, we show that, for epidemics spreading on realistic contact networks, it is not possible to define a steady exponential growth phase and a basic reproduction number. We show the operational use of the instantaneous reproduction rate as a good descriptor of the transmission dynamics.

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