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Use of digital epidemic surveillance data for AI-guided epidemic forecasting

The COVID-19 outbreak which began in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, rapidly developed into a pandemic. This and other recent infectious disease events have highlighted the need for reliable data sources and predictive models that can assist in defining key risk factors associated with developing outbreaks, as well as their potential for further spread. 

The International Society for Infectious Diseases and ProMED, in collaboration with the Medical Research Council (MRC) Centre for Outbreak Analysis and Modelling at Imperial College London, the University of Sussex (UK), HealthMap at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School, and healthsites.io received a 1.4 million, 2-year grant from an anonymous donor to use digital epidemic surveillance data for AI-guided, actionable forecasts in near real-time in support of outbreak response efforts and humanitarian health emergency activities across the globe.

The grant will reshape current forecasting methods and will allow the team to develop an open-source, modular, and flexible tool that uses epidemic case incidence data to inform short-term case and epidemic risk projections. It builds on the “Mapping the Risk of International Infectious Disease Spread (MRIIDS)” prototype that the team developed with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Project partners will apply natural language processing and machine learning algorithms to automate the extraction of epidemic case data and will further refine and improve forecasting algorithms through use of artificial intelligence. Integration of other innovative data streams will strengthen the accuracy and validity of these predictive models for impending outbreaks. 

“This grant will maintain the great momentum we gathered over the last two years. By the end of the funding period, we envision being closer to universal epidemic forecasting through automation and refinement of the forecasting algorithms, and by extending the tool to additional pathogens of global concern.” says Dr. Britta Lassmann, Program Director of the International Society for Infectious Diseases. 

The proposed tool will be a valuable information resource for decision makers, fostering infection prevention and control resource allocation tailored to the risk level experienced by a country/region.

Team: 

Sangeeta Bhatia, PhD – Imperial College London

John Brownstein, PhD – HealthMap

Emily Cohn, MPH – HealthMap

Anne Cori, PhD – Imperial College London

Angel Desai, MD, MPH – ProMED/ISID – PandemiTech Fellow

Mark Herringer – healthsites.io

Moritz Kraemer, PhD – HealthMap

Britta Lassmann, MD – ProMED/ISID

Linda MacKinnon, MPH – ProMED/ISID

Lawrence Madoff, MD – ProMED/ISID

Pierre Nouvellet, PhD – Sussex University

John Ramatowski, MSc, MMSc – ProMED/ISID

 

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