Modeling the Spread of HPV Through a Network

Students: Tania Luo (University of Nevada, Reno) and Lizheyin Wu
Mentor: Pamela Pyzza (OWU Department of Mathematics and Computer Science)

Using a mathematical model, we investigate how human papillomavirus (HPV) spreads through a population in order to gain insight into possible vaccination strategies. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause many cancers. We model a network of individuals whose characteristics are drawn from existing studies about HPV. Based on that, we simulate the forming and breaking of relationships between individuals to study the propagation of the virus through the population over time.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common sexually transmitted infection in both males and females, which usually shows no symptoms and can be transmitted through genital or oral sex. Among over one hundred strains of HPV, we focus on two high-risk strains that are responsible for a majority of cervical cancer cases leading to about 4,000 deaths in the United States per year. Using a dynamic agent-based network, the spread of HPV can be mathematically modeled and examined.

Our agent-based network consists of agents representing individuals with characteristics, such as age, biological sex, and sexual orientation, and links representing sexual connections formed based on the characteristics of the agents. Using a set of probabilistic rules, we can simulate the connections between individuals in the network. Once connections are established, HPV can spread based on the health status of the individuals. Since the network changes dynamically with respect to time, connections form and break, and older agents will age out of the network while new ones join. We can examine the propagation of HPV through the network, which can be used to investigate the properties of an endemic disease, like HPV, and effective vaccination campaigns against it.