Close encounters between infants and household members measured through wearable proximity sensors

Laura Ozella , Francesco Gesualdo, Michele Tizzoni, Caterina Rizzo, Elisabetta Pandolfi, Ilaria Campagna, Alberto Eugenio Tozzi, Ciro Cattuto, PLoS ONE 13(6): e0198733 (2018)

Describing and understanding close proximity interactions between infant and
family members can provide key information on transmission opportunities of
respiratory infections within households. Among respiratory infections,
pertussis represents a public health priority. Pertussis infection can be
particularly harmful to young, unvaccinated infants and for these patients,
family members represent the main sources of transmission. Here, we report on
the use of wearable proximity sensors based on RFID technology to measure
face-to-face proximity between family members within 16 households with
infants younger than 6 months for 2–5 consecutive days of data collection.
The sensors were deployed over the course of approximately 1 year, in the
context of a national research project aimed at the improvement of infant
pertussis prevention strategies. We investigated differences in close-range
interactions between family members and we assessed whether demographic
variables or feeding practices affect contact patterns between parents and
infants. A total of 5,958 contact events were recorded between 55
individuals: 16 infants, 4 siblings, 31 parents and 4 grandparents. The
aggregated contact networks, obtained for each household, showed a
heterogeneous distribution of the cumulative time spent in proximity with the
infant by family members. Contact matrices defined by age and by family role
showed that most of the contacts occurred between the infant and other family
members (70%), while 30% of contacts was among family members (infants
excluded). Many contacts were observed between infants and adults, in
particular between infant and mother, followed by father, siblings and
grandparents. A larger number of contacts and longer contact durations
between infant and other family members were observed in families adopting
exclusive breastfeeding, compared to families in which the infant receives
artificial or mixed feeding. Our results demonstrate how a high-resolution
measurement of contact matrices within infants’ households is feasible using
wearable proximity sensing devices. Moreover, our findings suggest the mother
is responsible for the large majority of the infant’s contact pattern, thus
being the main potential source of infection for a transmissible disease. As
the contribution to the infants’ contact pattern by other family members is
very variable, vaccination against pertussis during pregnancy is probably the
best strategy to protect young, unvaccinated infants.


URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0198733

PDF: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0198733&type=printable

BIBTEX:

@article{10.1371/journal.pone.0198733,
    author = {Ozella, Laura AND Gesualdo, Francesco AND Tizzoni, Michele AND Rizzo, Caterina AND Pandolfi, Elisabetta AND Campagna, Ilaria AND Tozzi, Alberto Eugenio AND Cattuto, Ciro},
    journal = {PLOS ONE},
    publisher = {Public Library of Science},
    title = {Close encounters between infants and household members measured through wearable proximity sensors},
    year = {2018},
    month = {06},
    volume = {13},
    url = {https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0198733},
    pages = {1-16},
    abstract = {Describing and understanding close proximity interactions between infant and family members can provide key information on transmission opportunities of respiratory infections within households. Among respiratory infections, pertussis represents a public health priority. Pertussis infection can be particularly harmful to young, unvaccinated infants and for these patients, family members represent the main sources of transmission. Here, we report on the use of wearable proximity sensors based on RFID technology to measure face-to-face proximity between family members within 16 households with infants younger than 6 months for 2–5 consecutive days of data collection. The sensors were deployed over the course of approximately 1 year, in the context of a national research project aimed at the improvement of infant pertussis prevention strategies. We investigated differences in close-range interactions between family members and we assessed whether demographic variables or feeding practices affect contact patterns between parents and infants. A total of 5,958 contact events were recorded between 55 individuals: 16 infants, 4 siblings, 31 parents and 4 grandparents. The aggregated contact networks, obtained for each household, showed a heterogeneous distribution of the cumulative time spent in proximity with the infant by family members. Contact matrices defined by age and by family role showed that most of the contacts occurred between the infant and other family members (70%), while 30% of contacts was among family members (infants excluded). Many contacts were observed between infants and adults, in particular between infant and mother, followed by father, siblings and grandparents. A larger number of contacts and longer contact durations between infant and other family members were observed in families adopting exclusive breastfeeding, compared to families in which the infant receives artificial or mixed feeding. Our results demonstrate how a high-resolution measurement of contact matrices within infants’ households is feasible using wearable proximity sensing devices. Moreover, our findings suggest the mother is responsible for the large majority of the infant’s contact pattern, thus being the main potential source of infection for a transmissible disease. As the contribution to the infants’ contact pattern by other family members is very variable, vaccination against pertussis during pregnancy is probably the best strategy to protect young, unvaccinated infants.},
    number = {6},
    doi = {10.1371/journal.pone.0198733}
}

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