Publications by authors named "F Baldassi"

4 Publications

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Infectious Diseases Seeker (IDS): An Innovative Tool for Prompt Identification of Infectious Diseases during Outbreaks.

Int J Environ Res Public Health 2021 03 20;18(6). Epub 2021 Mar 20.

Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Rome "Tor Vergata", 00133 Rome, Italy.

Background: Several technologies for rapid molecular identification of pathogens are currently available; jointly with monitoring tools (i.e., web-based surveillance tools, infectious diseases modelers, and epidemic intelligence methods), they represent important components for timely outbreak detection and identification of the involved pathogen. The application of these approaches is usually feasible and effective when performed by healthcare professionals with specific expertise and skills and when data and resources are easily accessible. Contrariwise, in the field situation where healthcare workers or first responders from heterogeneous competences can be asked to investigate an outbreak of unknown origin, a simple and suitable tool for rapid agent identification and appropriate outbreak management is highly needed. Most especially when time is limited, available data are incomplete, and accessible infrastructure and resources are inadequate. The use of a prompt, user-friendly, and accessible tool able to rapidly recognize an infectious disease outbreak and with high sensitivity and precision may be a game-changer to support emergency response and public health investigations.

Methods: This paper presents the work performed to implement and test an innovative tool for prompt identification of infectious diseases during outbreaks, called Infectious Diseases Seeker (IDS). IDS is a standalone software that runs on the most common operative systems. It has been built by integrating a database containing an interim set of 60 different disease causative agents and COVID-19 data and is able to work in an off-line mode without requiring a network connection.

Results: IDS has been applied in a real and complex scenario in terms of concomitant infectious diseases (yellow fever, COVID-19, and Lassa fever), as can be in the second part of 2020 in Nigeria. The outcomes have allowed inferring that yellow fever (YF), and not Lassa fever, was affecting the area under investigation.

Conclusions: Our result suggests that a tool like IDS could be valuable for the quick and easy identification and discrimination of infectious disease outbreaks even when concurrent outbreaks occur, like for the case study of YF and COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria.
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March 2021

Testing the identification effectiveness of an unknown outbreak of the Infectious Diseases Seeker (IDS) using and comparing the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak with the past SARS and MERS epidemics.

J Infect Public Health 2021 Jan 9;14(1):123-130. Epub 2020 Dec 9.

Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Rome "Tor Vergata", Italy.

Background: The aim of this research is to assess the predictive accuracy of the Infectious Diseases Seeker (IDS) - an innovative tool for prompt identification of the causative agent of infectious diseases during outbreaks - when field epidemiological data collected from a novel outbreak of unknown origin are analysed by the tool. For this reason, it has been taken into account the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, which began in China at the end of December 2019, has rapidly spread around the globe, and it has led to a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), declared to the 30th of January 2020 by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Methods: The IDS takes advantage of an off-line database, built before the COVID-19 pandemic, which represents a pivotal characteristic for working without an internet connection. The software has been tested using the epidemiological data available in different and progressive stages of the COVID-19 outbreak. As a comparison, the results of the tests performed using the epidemiological data from the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) epidemic in 2002 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) epidemic in 2012, are shown.

Results: The overall outcomes provided by the software are comforting, as a matter of the fact that IDS has identified with a good accuracy the SARS and MERS epidemics (over 90%), while, as expected, it has not provided erroneous and equivocal readings after the elaboration COVID-19 epidemic data.

Conclusions: Even though IDS has not recognized the COVID-19 epidemic, it has not given to the end user a false result and wrong interpretation, as expected by the developers. For this reason, IDS reveals itself as useful software to identify a possible epidemic or outbreak. Thus, the intention of developers is to plan, once the software will be released, dedicated updates and upgrades of the database (e.g., SARS-CoV-2) in order to keep this tool increasingly useful and applicable to reality.
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January 2021

First Prototype of the Infectious Diseases Seeker (IDS) Software for Prompt Identification of Infectious Diseases.

J Epidemiol Glob Health 2020 12 21;10(4):367-377. Epub 2020 Jul 21.

Department of Industrial Engineering, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.

The rapid detection of ongoing outbreak - and the identification of causative pathogen - is pivotal for the early recognition of public health threats. The emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases are linked to several determinants, both human factors - such as population density, travel, and trade - and ecological factors - like climate change and agricultural practices. Several technologies are available for the rapid molecular identification of pathogens [e.g. real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR)], and together with on line monitoring tools of infectious disease activity and behaviour, they contribute to the surveillance system for infectious diseases. Web-based surveillance tools, infectious diseases modelling and epidemic intelligence methods represent crucial components for timely outbreak detection and rapid risk assessment. The study aims to integrate the current prevention and control system with a prediction tool for infectious diseases, based on regression analysis, to support decision makers, health care workers, and first responders to quickly and properly recognise an outbreak. This study has the intention to develop an infectious disease regressive prediction tool working with an off-line database built with specific epidemiological parameters of a set of infectious diseases of high consequences. The tool has been developed as a first prototype of a software solution called Infectious Diseases Seeker (IDS) and it had been established in two main steps, the database building stage and the software implementation stage (MATLAB environment). The IDS has been tested with the epidemiological data of three outbreaks occurred recently: severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic in China (2002-2003), plague outbreak in Madagascar (2017) and the Ebola virus disease outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (2018). The outcomes are promising and they reveal that the software has been able to recognize and characterize these outbreaks. The future perspective about this software regards the developing of that tool as a useful and user-friendly predictive tool appropriate for first responders, health care workers, and public health decision makers to help them in predicting, assessing and contrasting outbreaks.
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December 2020

Testing the accuracy ratio of the Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler (STEM) through Ebola haemorrhagic fever outbreaks.

Epidemiol Infect 2016 05;144(7):1463-72

International Master Courses in Protection Against CBRNe events,Department of Industrial Engineering and School of Medicine and Surgery,University of Rome Tor Vergata,Italy.

Mathematical modelling is an important tool for understanding the dynamics of the spread of infectious diseases, which could be the result of a natural outbreak or of the intentional release of pathogenic biological agents. Decision makers and policymakers responsible for strategies to contain disease, prevent epidemics and fight possible bioterrorism attacks, need accurate computational tools, based on mathematical modelling, for preventing or even managing these complex situations. In this article, we tested the validity, and demonstrate the reliability, of an open-source software, the Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler (STEM), designed to help scientists and public health officials to evaluate and create models of emerging infectious diseases, analysing three real cases of Ebola haemorrhagic fever (EHF) outbreaks: Uganda (2000), Gabon (2001) and Guinea (2014). We discuss the cases analysed through the simulation results obtained with STEM in order to demonstrate the capability of this software in helping decision makers plan interventions in case of biological emergencies.
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May 2016