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  1. Health care–associated infections due to multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs), such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridioides difficile (CDI), place a significant burden on our health care infrastructure. Screening for MDROs is an important mechanism for preventing spread but is resource intensive. The objective of this study was to develop automated tools that can predict colonization or infection risk using electronic health record (EHR) data, provide useful information to aid infection control, and guide empiric antibiotic coverage. We retrospectively developed a machine learning model to detect MRSA colonization and infection in undifferentiated patients at the time of sample collection from hospitalized patients at the University of Virginia Hospital. We used clinical and nonclinical features derived from on-admission and throughout-stay information from the patient’s EHR data to build the model. In addition, we used a class of features derived from contact networks in EHR data; these network features can capture patients’ contacts with providers and other patients, improving model interpretability and accuracy for predicting the outcome of surveillance tests for MRSA. Finally, we explored heterogeneous models for different patient subpopulations, for example, those admitted to an intensive care unit or emergency department or those with specific testing histories, which perform better. We found that the penalized logistic regression performs better than other methods, and this model’s performance measured in terms of its receiver operating characteristics-area under the curve score improves by nearly 11% when we use polynomial (second-degree) transformation of the features. Some significant features in predicting MDRO risk include antibiotic use, surgery, use of devices, dialysis, patient’s comorbidity conditions, and network features. Among these, network features add the most value and improve the model’s performance by at least 15%. The penalized logistic regression model with the same transformation of features also performs better than other models for specific patient subpopulations. Our study shows that MRSA risk prediction can be conducted quite effectively by machine learning methods using clinical and nonclinical features derived from EHR data. Network features are the most predictive and provide significant improvement over prior methods. Furthermore, heterogeneous prediction models for different patient subpopulations enhance the model’s performance. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2025
  2. Healthcare acquired infections (HAIs) (e.g., Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection) have complex transmission pathways, spreading not just via direct person-to-person contacts, but also via contaminated surfaces. Prior work in mathematical epidemiology has led to a class of models – which we call load sharing models – that provide a discrete-time, stochastic formalization of HAI-spread on temporal contact networks. The focus of this paper is the source detection problem for the load sharing model. The source detection problem has been studied extensively in SEIR type models, but this prior work does not apply to load sharing models.We show that a natural formulation of the source detection problem for the load sharing model is computationally hard, even to approximate. We then present two alternate formulations that are much more tractable. The tractability of our problems depends crucially on the submodularity of the expected number of infections as a function of the source set. Prior techniques for showing submodularity, such as the "live graph" technique are not applicable for the load sharing model and our key technical contribution is to use a more sophisticated "coupling" technique to show the submodularity result. We propose algorithms for our two problem formulations by extending existing algorithmic results from submodular optimization and combining these with an expectation propagation heuristic for the load sharing model that leads to orders-of-magnitude speedup. We present experimental results on temporal contact networks based on fine-grained EMR data from three different hospitals. Our results on synthetic outbreaks on these networks show that our algorithms outperform baselines by up to 5.97 times. Furthermore, case studies based on hospital outbreaks of Clostridioides difficile infection show that our algorithms identify clinically meaningful sources. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 27, 2024
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  4. Abstract Privacy protection is paramount in conducting health research. However, studies often rely on data stored in a centralized repository, where analysis is done with full access to the sensitive underlying content. Recent advances in federated learning enable building complex machine-learned models that are trained in a distributed fashion. These techniques facilitate the calculation of research study endpoints such that private data never leaves a given device or healthcare system. We show—on a diverse set of single and multi-site health studies—that federated models can achieve similar accuracy, precision, and generalizability, and lead to the same interpretation as standard centralized statistical models while achieving considerably stronger privacy protections and without significantly raising computational costs. This work is the first to apply modern and general federated learning methods that explicitly incorporate differential privacy to clinical and epidemiological research—across a spectrum of units of federation, model architectures, complexity of learning tasks and diseases. As a result, it enables health research participants to remain in control of their data and still contribute to advancing science—aspects that used to be at odds with each other. 
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