Novel method accurately predicts disease outbreaks

March 22, 2013

A team of scientists from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) has developed a novel method to accurately predict dengue fever outbreaks several weeks before they occur.

The new method, known as PRedicting Infectious Scalable Model (PRISM), extracts relationships between clinical, meteorological, climatic and socio-political data in Peru and in the Philippines. It can be used in any geographical region and extended to other environmentally influenced infections affecting public health and military forces worldwide.

PRISM is aimed at helping decision-makers and planners assess the future risk of a disease occurring in a specific geographic area at a specific time. Developed by APL's Anna Buczak and a team of researchers for the Department of Defense (DoD), PRISM predicts the severity of a given disease at a specific time and place with quantifiable accuracy, using original analytical and . "By predicting when no disease is present, PRISM has the potential to save lives by allowing early and decreasing the impact of an outbreak," says Sheri Lewis, APL's Surveillance Program Manager. DoD is currently evaluating PRISM for use in mitigating the effects of infectious disease in various operational settings.

PRISM's distinctive utilizes Fuzzy Association Rule Mining (FARM) to extract relationships between multiple variables in a data set. These relationships form rules, and when the best set of rules is automatically chosen, a classifier is formed. The classifier is then used to predict future incidence of the disease – in this case dengue fever, the second most common mosquito-borne disease, which puts more than one-third of the world's population at risk.

"PRISM is designed to help public health leaders make informed decisions, mitigate threats and more effectively protect their populations," says Lewis. "Ideally, decision-makers want to learn about a disease outbreak before it spreads and PRISM will provide them with highly accurate information to protect our military forces deployed in at-risk areas."

While PRISM's pilot predictive analysis was the study of dengue fever in Peru, APL scientists have extended the method to predicting dengue in the Philippines and are working to fine-tune the model and expand its capabilities to include other . "Dengue was the starting point for our work because the data were readily available, but eventually we want to apply the methodology to other diseases, such as malaria and influenza," says Lewis.

Once fully operational, PRISM will aid in the earliest possible detection of illness within a community by complementing electronic systems such as the APL-developed Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics (ESSENCE) and the Suite of Automated Global Electronic bioSurveillance (SAGES).

ESSENCE collects, processes and analyzes non-traditional data sources to identify disease activity in a community, allowing data to be queried, analyzed and visualized by the end user. SAGES is a collection of freely available software, including open source versions of ESSENCE, for electronic surveillance in countries with little funding for public health initiatives. SAGES can be used alone or with existing surveillance applications providing governments with the flexibility to develop inexpensive and customized systems to collect and track information about the spread of diseases.

Explore further: Searching the web for dengue

Related Stories

Searching the web for dengue

May 31, 2011
Researchers at Children's Hospital Boston and Google.org have found web-based search data to be a viable source of information for early detection and monitoring of outbreaks of dengue, an emerging mosquito-borne virus found ...

Surveillance system can identify and track emerging infectious diseases

February 8, 2013
A team of researchers have developed a method to identify the cause of infectious disease outbreaks based on online reports about the symptoms, the season, and the ratio of cases to fatalities. Using data from the Internet ...

Report focuses on sustainability of infectious disease surveillance

July 17, 2012
Just as the globalization of trade and travel is rapidly evolving, so is the globalization of infectious diseases and the need for cooperative approaches to detect, prevent and control them, according to Dr. David Dausey, ...

Recommended for you

Novel approach to track HIV infection

August 18, 2017
Northwestern Medicine scientists have developed a novel method of tracking HIV infection, allowing the behavior of individual virions—infectious particles—to be connected to infectivity.

Faulty gene linked to obesity in adults

August 18, 2017
Groundbreaking new research linking obesity and metabolic dysfunction to a problem in the energy generators in cells has been published by researchers from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and The University ...

Two lung diseases killed 3.6 million in 2015: study

August 17, 2017
The two most common chronic lung diseases claimed 3.6 million lives worldwide in 2015, according to a tally published Thursday in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

New test differentiates between Lyme disease, similar illness

August 16, 2017
Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States. But it can be confused with similar conditions, including Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness. A team of researchers led by Colorado ...

Addressing superbug resistance with phage therapy

August 16, 2017
International research involving a Monash biologist shows that bacteriophage therapy – a process whereby bacterial viruses attack and destroy specific strains of bacteria - can be used successfully to treat systemic, multidrug ...

Can previous exposure to west Nile alter the course of Zika?

August 15, 2017
West Nile virus is no stranger to the U.S.-Mexico border; thousands of people in the region have contracted the mosquito-borne virus in the past. But could this previous exposure affect how intensely Zika sickens someone ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.