Quantitative microbial risk assessment estimates the potential human health impacts of exposures to pathogenic microorganisms using environmental microbiology, dose-response models, and stochastic simulation techniques.
Reliable environmental microbiology techniques are critical for developing exposure assessment models for use in QMRA. The goal of exposure assessment is to estimate the dose of a pathogen a human receives at the time and place of exposure. A diverse array of exposures can be simulated using fundamental models from environmental engineering.
Once QMRA models are built and calibrated, they can be used to rapidly produce estimates of human health risks associated with various exposures to pathogens. These estimates can range from simple point estimates to sophisticated Monte Carlo simulation results. The risks estimated by QMRA can then be compared to acceptable or tolerable risk thresholds.
Estimating the health impacts of different interventions can require the use of large and expensive epidemiology trials. QMRA can offer a cost-efficient method of hypothesis testing by computer experiment in the absence of the resources for large epidemiological trials. Exposure assessments for various scenarios or interventions can be modeled and the estimated risks compared. These results can then be used for cost-benefit and alternatives analysis.