Nevin Manimala Statistics

Modeling in higher dimensions to improve diagnostic testing accuracy: Theory and examples for multiplex saliva-based SARS-CoV-2 antibody assays

PLoS One. 2023 Mar 13;18(3):e0280823. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0280823. eCollection 2023.


The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has emphasized the importance and challenges of correctly interpreting antibody test results. Identification of positive and negative samples requires a classification strategy with low error rates, which is hard to achieve when the corresponding measurement values overlap. Additional uncertainty arises when classification schemes fail to account for complicated structure in data. We address these problems through a mathematical framework that combines high dimensional data modeling and optimal decision theory. Specifically, we show that appropriately increasing the dimension of data better separates positive and negative populations and reveals nuanced structure that can be described in terms of mathematical models. We combine these models with optimal decision theory to yield a classification scheme that better separates positive and negative samples relative to traditional methods such as confidence intervals (CIs) and receiver operating characteristics. We validate the usefulness of this approach in the context of a multiplex salivary SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulin G assay dataset. This example illustrates how our analysis: (i) improves the assay accuracy, (e.g. lowers classification errors by up to 42% compared to CI methods); (ii) reduces the number of indeterminate samples when an inconclusive class is permissible, (e.g. by 40% compared to the original analysis of the example multiplex dataset) and (iii) decreases the number of antigens needed to classify samples. Our work showcases the power of mathematical modeling in diagnostic classification and highlights a method that can be adopted broadly in public health and clinical settings.

PMID:36913381 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0280823

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