Sequential prevalence estimation with pooling and continuous test outcomes.
Additional Document Info
Prevalence estimation is crucial for controlling the spread of infections and diseases and for planning of health care services. Prevalence estimation is typically conducted via pooled, or group, testing due to limited testing budgets. We study a sequential estimation procedure that uses continuous pool readings and considers the dilution effect of pooling so as to efficiently estimate an unknown prevalence rate. Embedded into the sequential estimation procedure is an optimization model that determines the optimal pooling design (number of pools and pool sizes) under a limited testing budget, considering the trade-off between testing cost and estimation accuracy. Our numerical study indicates that the proposed sequential estimation procedure outperforms single-stage procedures, or procedures that use binary test outcomes. Further, the sequential procedure provides robust prevalence estimates in cases where the initial estimate of the unknown prevalence rate is poor, or the assumed distribution of the biomarker load in infected subjects is inaccurate. Thus, when limited and unreliable information is available about the current status of, or biomarker dynamics related to, an infection, the sequential procedure becomes an attractive estimation strategy, due to its ability to mitigate the initial bias.