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Model Uncertainty and Model Averaging in the Estimation of Infectious Doses for Microbial Pathogens


Hojin Moon, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, California State University, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90840-1001, USA; tel: 562-999-1654;


Food-borne infection is caused by intake of foods or beverages contaminated with microbial pathogens. Dose-response modeling is used to estimate exposure levels of pathogens associated with specific risks of infection or illness. When a single dose-response model is used and confidence limits on infectious doses are calculated, only data uncertainty is captured. We propose a method to estimate the lower confidence limit on an infectious dose by including model uncertainty and separating it from data uncertainty. The infectious dose is estimated by a weighted average of effective dose estimates from a set of dose-response models via a Kullback information criterion. The confidence interval for the infectious dose is constructed by the delta method, where data uncertainty is addressed by a bootstrap method. To evaluate the actual coverage probabilities of the lower confidence limit, a Monte Carlo simulation study is conducted under sublinear, linear, and superlinear dose-response shapes that can be commonly found in real data sets. Our model-averaging method achieves coverage close to nominal in almost all cases, thus providing a useful and efficient tool for accurate calculation of lower confidence limits on infectious doses.