Mathematical models are useful tools for understanding and predicting epidemics. A recent innovative modeling study by Stehle and colleagues addressed the issue of how complex models need to be to ensure accuracy. The authors collected data on face-to-face contacts during a two-day conference. They then constructed a series of dynamic social contact networks, each of which was used to model an epidemic generated by a fast-spreading airborne pathogen. Intriguingly, Stehle and colleagues found that increasing model complexity did not always increase accuracy. Specifically, the most detailed contact network and a simplified version of this network generated very similar results. These results are extremely interesting and require further exploration to determine their generalizability.
Please see related article BMC Medicine, 2011, 9:87