Short-term forecasting of the prevalence of trachoma: Expert opinion, statistical regression, versus transmission models.
AUTHOR SUMMARY: Forecasts of infectious diseases are rarely made in a falsifiable manner. Trachoma trials offer an opportunity to actually compare forecasting methods in a masked fashion. The World Health Organization recommends at least three annual antibiotic mass drug administrations where the prevalence of trachoma is greater than 10% in children aged 1–9 years, with coverage at least at 80%. The Program for the Rapid Elimination of Trachoma trials estimated longitudinal prevalence of ocular chlamydial infection from 24 communities treated annually with mass azithromycin. Here, we compared forecasts of the prevalence of infection in each of the 24 communities at 36 months (given antibiotic coverage and biannual assessments from baseline through 30 months, and masked to the 36-month assessments) made by experts, statistical regression, and a transmission model. The transmission model was better than regression, with both far better than experts’ opinion. Construction of guidelines that rely on forecasting future prevalence could consider use of mathematical and statistical models.
for a correction in the Funding section of this article see: http://journals.plos.org/plosntds/article?id=10.1371/journal.pntd.0004129