Parameter estimation and sensitivity analysis in an agent-based model of Leishmania major infection
Computer models of disease take a systems biology approach toward understanding host–pathogen interactions. In particular, data driven computer model calibration is the basis for inference of immunological and pathogen parameters, assessment of model validity, and comparison between alternative models of immune or pathogen behavior. In this paper we describe the calibration and analysis of an agent-based model of Leishmania major infection. A model of macrophage loss following uptake of necrotic tissue is proposed to explain macrophage depletion following peak infection. Using Gaussian processes to approximate the computer code, we perform a sensitivity analysis to identify important parameters and to characterize their influence on the simulated infection. The analysis indicates that increasing growth rate can favor or suppress pathogen loads, depending on the infection stage and the pathogen's ability to avoid detection. Subsequent calibration of the model against previously published biological observations suggests that L. major has a relatively slow growth rate and can replicate for an extended period of time before damaging the host cell.