Nested sampling for Bayesian model comparison in the context of Salmonella disease dynamics.

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Dybowski, Richard 
McKinley, Trevelyan J 

Understanding the mechanisms underlying the observed dynamics of complex biological systems requires the statistical assessment and comparison of multiple alternative models. Although this has traditionally been done using maximum likelihood-based methods such as Akaike's Information Criterion (AIC), Bayesian methods have gained in popularity because they provide more informative output in the form of posterior probability distributions. However, comparison between multiple models in a Bayesian framework is made difficult by the computational cost of numerical integration over large parameter spaces. A new, efficient method for the computation of posterior probabilities has recently been proposed and applied to complex problems from the physical sciences. Here we demonstrate how nested sampling can be used for inference and model comparison in biological sciences. We present a reanalysis of data from experimental infection of mice with Salmonella enterica showing the distribution of bacteria in liver cells. In addition to confirming the main finding of the original analysis, which relied on AIC, our approach provides: (a) integration across the parameter space, (b) estimation of the posterior parameter distributions (with visualisations of parameter correlations), and (c) estimation of the posterior predictive distributions for goodness-of-fit assessments of the models. The goodness-of-fit results suggest that alternative mechanistic models and a relaxation of the quasi-stationary assumption should be considered.

Algorithms, Animals, Bayes Theorem, Colony Count, Microbial, Mice, Models, Biological, Probability, Salmonella Infections, Animal, Salmonella enterica, Stochastic Processes, Virulence
Journal Title
PLoS One
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Volume Title
Public Library of Science (PLoS)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/I012192/1)
The Royal Society (uf0762354)
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/I002189/1)
BBSRC (BBS/B/02266)
RD was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) (grant number BB/I002189/1). TJM was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) (grant number BB/I012192/1). OR was funded by the Royal Society.