"Inference on infectious disease dynamics from genetic sequences"
Genetic sequences from pathogens can provide information about infectious disease dynamics that may supplement or replace information from other epidemiological observations. Currently available methods first estimate phylogenetic trees from sequence data, then estimate a transmission model conditional on these phylogenies. Outside limited classes of models, existing methods are unable to enforce logical consistency between the model of transmission and that underlying the phylogenetic reconstruction. Such conflicts in assumptions can lead to bias in the resulting inferences. We have developed a general, statistically efficient, plug-and-play method to jointly estimate both disease transmission and phylogeny using genetic data and, if desired, other epidemiological observations. This method explicitly connects the model of transmission and the model of phylogeny so as to avoid inconsistencies in assumptions. We demonstrate the feasibility of our approach through simulation and apply it to estimate stage-specific infectiousness in a sub-epidemic of HIV in Detroit, Michigan.