The transfer ratio of bacteria from one surface to another is often estimated from laboratory experiments and quantified by dividing the expected number of bacteria on the recipient surface by the expected number of bacteria on the donor surface. Yet, the expected number of bacteria on each surface is uncertain due to the limited number of colonies that are counted and/or samples that can be analyzed. The expected transfer ratio is, therefore, also uncertain and its estimate may exceed 1 if real transfer is close to 100%. In addition, the transferred fractions vary over experiments but it is unclear, using this approach, how to combine uncertainty and variability into one estimate for the transfer ratio. A Bayesian network model was proposed that allows the combination of uncertainty within one experiment and variability over multiple experiments and prevents inappropriate values for the transfer ratio. Model functionality was shown using data from a laboratory experiment in which the transfer of Salmonella was determined from contaminated pork meat to a butcher's knife, and vice versa. Recovery efficiency of bacteria from both surfaces was also determined and accounted for in the analysis. Transfer ratio probability distributions showed a large variability, with a mean value of 0.19 for the transfer of Salmonella from pork meat to the knife and 0.58 for the transfer of Salmonella from the knife to pork meat. The proposed Bayesian model can be used for analyzing data from similar study designs in which uncertainty should be combined with variability.
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