- In epidemiology, the basic reproduction number (sometimes called basic reproductive rate or basic reproductive ratio) of an infection is the mean number of secondary cases a typical single infected case will cause in a population with no immunity to the disease in the absence of interventions to control the infection. It is often denoted R0 . This metric is useful because it helps determine whether or not an infectious disease will spread through a population. The roots of the basic reproduction concept can be traced through the work of Alfred Lotka, Ronald Ross, and others, but its first modern application in epidemiology was by George MacDonald in 1952, who constructed population models of the spread of malaria.
R0 < 1
the infection will die out in the long run (provided infection rates are constant). But if
R0 > 1
the infection will be able to spread in a population. Large values of R0 may indicate the possibility of a major epidemic.
Generally, the larger the value of R0 , the harder it is to control the epidemic. In particular, the proportion of the population that needs to be vaccinated to provide herd immunity and prevent sustained spread of the infection is given by 1 – 1/R0 . The basic reproductive rate is affected by several factors including the duration of infectivity of affected patients, the infectiousness of the organism, and the number of susceptible people in the population that the affected patients are in contact with