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Title: Novel Clustering Methods Identified Three Caries Status-Related Clusters Based on Oral Microbiome in Thai Mother–Child Dyads

Early childhood caries (ECC) is a disease that globally affects pre-school children. It is important to identify both protective and risk factors associated with this disease. This paper examined a set of saliva samples of Thai mother–child dyads and aimed to analyze how the maternal factors and oral microbiome of the dyads influence the development of ECC. However, heterogeneous latent subpopulations may exist that have different characteristics in terms of caries development. Therefore, we introduce a novel method to cluster the correlated outcomes of dependent observations while selecting influential independent variables to unearth latent groupings within this dataset and reveal their association in each group. This paper describes the discovery of three heterogeneous clusters in the dataset, each with its own unique mother–child outcome trend, as well as identifying several microbial factors that contribute to ECC. Significantly, the three identified clusters represent three typical clinical conditions in which mother–child dyads have typical (cluster 1), high–low (cluster 2), and low–high caries experiences (cluster 3) compared to the overall trend of mother–child caries status. Intriguingly, the variables identified as the driving attributes of each cluster, including specific taxa, have the potential to be used in the future as caries preventive measures.

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