Epidemiological and statistical methods
The choice of the right method is essential in epidemiology. Which sample size is necessary to verify an association between a risk factor and a disease, taking potential statistic variations into account? To which degree do other risk factors for the examined disease distort the outcome of a study? In order to get meaningful results, these questions must be evaluated for every new scenario.
Methodological scientists in epidemiology are specialized in the application of different study designs: In addition to classical approaches like case-control studies or cohort studies, there are also “case-only designs”, in which only patients with the respective disease are analyzed. Furthermore there are studies that consider changes over time: for example changes in the incidence rate in a population or studies that monitor intra-individual changes over time. Furthermore, our group has experience in analyzing studies in which multifactorial contexts are investigated.
Besides analyzing studies, the scientists in our group are also specialized in designing and conducting studies. We thus collaborate with many clinical partners, for example in the area of nosocomial infections, bloodstream infections or severe respiratory infections.
Another useful methodical approach is mathematical modelling. This method is especially helpful in the analysis of long term impacts of dynamic systems or for comparing alternative scenarios. In a mathematical model we can for instance illustrate the impact of a vaccine during an influenza epidemic or the expected decline of cervical cancer incidence in the next 100 years due to the introduction of the vaccination against Human Papillomavirus. Currently, the scientists are working on questions about varicella vaccination: will the introduction of the varicella vaccination lead to an increase of Herpes Zoster (which is also called by the Varicella zoster virus) because the boosting of the immunity through contact with infected and sick children will be missing? And would a second varicella vaccination in older age groups (then against Herpes Zoster) be useful?
In the context of mathematical modelling, the scientists are also working on methods for detecting contact structures and networks which play a major role in droplet and hospital infections.