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Assessment of Overlap of Phylogenetic Transmission Clusters and Communities in Simple Sexual Contact Networks: Applications to HIV-1.

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Villandre Luc, Stephens David A, Labbe Aurelie, Günthard Huldrych F, Kouyos Roger, Stadler Tanja, Swiss HIV Cohort Study,
Project Swiss HIV Cohort Study (SHCS)
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal PloS one
Volume (Issue) 11(2)
Page(s) 0148459 - 0148459
Title of proceedings PloS one
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0148459

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


Transmission patterns of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) could relate to the structure of the underlying sexual contact network, whose features are therefore of interest to clinicians. Conventionally, we represent sexual contacts in a population with a graph, that can reveal the existence of communities. Phylogenetic methods help infer the history of an epidemic and incidentally, may help detecting communities. In particular, phylogenetic analyses of HIV-1 epidemics among men who have sex with men (MSM) have revealed the existence of large transmission clusters, possibly resulting from within-community transmissions. Past studies have explored the association between contact networks and phylogenies, including transmission clusters, producing conflicting conclusions about whether network features significantly affect observed transmission history. As far as we know however, none of them thoroughly investigated the role of communities, defined with respect to the network graph, in the observation of clusters. The present study investigates, through simulations, community detection from phylogenies. We simulate a large number of epidemics over both unweighted and weighted, undirected random interconnected-islands networks, with islands corresponding to communities. We use weighting to modulate distance between islands. We translate each epidemic into a phylogeny, that lets us partition our samples of infected subjects into transmission clusters, based on several common definitions from the literature. We measure similarity between subjects' island membership indices and transmission cluster membership indices with the adjusted Rand index. Analyses reveal modest mean correspondence between communities in graphs and phylogenetic transmission clusters. We conclude that common methods often have limited success in detecting contact network communities from phylogenies. The rarely-fulfilled requirement that network communities correspond to clades in the phylogeny is their main drawback. Understanding the link between transmission clusters and communities in sexual contact networks could help inform policymaking to curb HIV incidence in MSMs.