Livestock disease model to revolutionise response.

Published 27 February 2015

Researchers at the University of New England are helping develop Australia’s first fully national-scale model of livestock disease spread and control.

Dr Paul Kwan, a computational scientist in the School of Science and Technology, says the forecasting model called the Australian Animal Disease Model (AADIS), simulates the spread of disease within and between farms across Australia. The initial test case disease for AADIS is foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), well known for its economic importance and complex epidemiology.

“The model will assist in the evaluation of control measures and development of policy on issues such as the use of vaccine and resource management.”

Dr Kwan says AADIS is more efficient than the incumbent region-based AusSpread model, and incorporates regional variation in disease transmission and individual jurisdictional approaches to implementing control measures.

AADIS also provides ‘real’ time graphical visualisation of an outbreak waxing and waning, which acts as a predictive tool for policy.

PhD candidate Richard Bradhurst designed and implemented the new model in close consultation with veterinary epidemiologists Dr Graeme Garner and Dr Sharon Roche, and statistician Dr Iain East from the Department of Agriculture.

“The AADIS features a novel hybrid approach that combines mathematical modelling with agent-based modelling. Computational efficiencies allow complex simulations of disease spread and control across the entire Australian livestock population to be conducted on a standard desktop computer,” said Mr Bradhurst.

The model is currently undergoing independent verification and validation. AADIS has already been used as a training tool in a United Nations FMD modelling workshop in Rome, and is being used in an international study on emergency animal disease planning and response, sponsored by the Australian Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis (CEBRA).

AADIS is a joint research venture between the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and the University of New England.