It is well established that network structure strongly influences infectious disease dynamics. However, little is known about how the network structure impacts the cost-effectiveness of disease control strategies. We evaluated partner management strategies to address bacterial sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as a case study to explore the influence of the network structure on the optimal disease management strategy.
We simulated a hypothetical bacterial STI spread through 4 representative network structures: random, community-structured, scale-free, and empirical. We simulated disease outcomes (prevalence, incidence, total infected person-months) and cost-effectiveness of 4 partner management strategies in each network structure: routine STI screening alone (no partner management), partner notification, expedited partner therapy, and contact tracing. We determined the optimal partner management strategy following a cost-effectiveness framework and varied key compliance parameters of partner management in sensitivity analysis.
For the same average number of contacts and disease parameters in our setting, community-structured networks had the lowest incidence, prevalence, and total infected person-months, whereas scale-free networks had the highest without partner management. The highly connected individuals were more likely to be reinfected in scale-free networks than in the other network structures. The cost-effective partner management strategy depended on the network structures, the compliance in partner management, the willingness-to-pay threshold, and the rate of external force of infection.
Our findings suggest that contact network structure matters in determining the optimal disease control strategy in infectious diseases. Information on a population's contact network structure may be valuable for informing optimal investment of limited resources.