Machine Learning Approaches for Epidemiological Investigations of Food-Borne Disease Outbreaks

Baiba Vilne, Irēna Meistere, Lelde Grantiņa-Ieviņa, Juris Ķibilds

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Foodborne diseases (FBDs) are infections of the gastrointestinal tract caused by foodborne pathogens (FBPs) such as bacteria [Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC)] and several viruses, but also parasites and some fungi. Artificial intelligence (AI) and its sub-discipline machine learning (ML) are re-emerging and gaining an ever increasing popularity in the scientific community and industry, and could lead to actionable knowledge in diverse ranges of sectors including epidemiological investigations of FBD outbreaks and antimicrobial resistance (AMR). As genotyping using whole-genome sequencing (WGS) is becoming more accessible and affordable, it is increasingly used as a routine tool for the detection of pathogens, and has the potential to differentiate between outbreak strains that are closely related, identify virulence/resistance genes and provide improved understanding of transmission events within hours to days. In most cases, the computational pipeline of WGS data analysis can be divided into four (though, not necessarily consecutive) major steps: de novo genome assembly, genome characterization, comparative genomics, and inference of phylogeny or phylogenomics. In each step, ML could be used to increase the speed and potentially the accuracy (provided increasing amounts of high-quality input data) of identification of the source of ongoing outbreaks, leading to more efficient treatment and prevention of additional cases. In this review, we explore whether ML or any other form of AI algorithms have already been proposed for the respective tasks and compare those with mechanistic model-based approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1722
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

Field of Science*

  • 3.3 Health sciences

Publication Type*

  • 1.1. Scientific article indexed in Web of Science and/or Scopus database


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