Spatiotemporal variations in exposure: Chagas disease in Colombia as a case study

Julia Ledien, Zulma M. Cucunubá, Gabriel Parra-Henao, Eliana Rodríguez-Monguí, Andrew P. Dobson, María Gloria Basáñez, Pierre Nouvellet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Age-stratified serosurvey data are often used to understand spatiotemporal trends in disease incidence and exposure through estimating the Force-of-Infection (FoI). Typically, median or mean FoI estimates are used as the response variable in predictive models, often overlooking the uncertainty in estimated FoI values when fitting models and evaluating their predictive ability. To assess how this uncertainty impact predictions, we compared three approaches with three levels of uncertainty integration. We propose a performance indicator to assess how predictions reflect initial uncertainty. In Colombia, 76 serosurveys (1980–2014) conducted at municipality level provided age-stratified Chagas disease prevalence data. The yearly FoI was estimated at the serosurvey level using a time-varying catalytic model. Environmental, demographic and entomological predictors were used to fit and predict the FoI at municipality level from 1980 to 2010 across Colombia. A stratified bootstrap method was used to fit the models without temporal autocorrelation at the serosurvey level. The predictive ability of each model was evaluated to select the best-fit models within urban, rural and (Amerindian) indigenous settings. Model averaging, with the 10 best-fit models identified, was used to generate predictions. Our analysis shows a risk of overconfidence in model predictions when median estimates of FoI alone are used to fit and evaluate models, failing to account for uncertainty in FoI estimates. Our proposed methodology fully propagates uncertainty in the estimated FoI onto the generated predictions, providing realistic assessments of both central tendency and current uncertainty surrounding exposure to Chagas disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13
JournalBMC Medical Research Methodology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Informatics
  • Epidemiology


  • Chagas disease
  • Force of infection
  • Infectious disease
  • Model averaging
  • Modelling


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