Predicting dengue importation into Europe, using machine learning and model-agnostic methods

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The geographical spread of dengue is a global public health concern. This is largely mediated by the importation of dengue from endemic to non-endemic areas via the increasing connectivity of the global air transport network. The dynamic nature and intrinsic heterogeneity of the air transport network make it challenging to predict dengue importation. Here, we explore the capabilities of state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms to predict dengue importation. We trained four machine learning classifiers algorithms, using a 6-year historical dengue importation data for 21 countries in Europe and connectivity indices mediating importation and air transport network centrality measures. Predictive performance for the classifiers was evaluated using the area under the receiving operating characteristic curve, sensitivity, and specificity measures. Finally, we applied practical model-agnostic methods, to provide an in-depth explanation of our optimal model’s predictions on a global and local scale. Our best performing model achieved high predictive accuracy, with an area under the receiver operating characteristic score of 0.94 and a maximized sensitivity score of 0.88. The predictor variables identified as most important were the source country’s dengue incidence rate, population size, and volume of air passengers. Network centrality measures, describing the positioning of European countries within the air travel network, were also influential to the predictions. We demonstrated the high predictive performance of a machine learning model in predicting dengue importation and the utility of the model-agnostic methods to offer a comprehensive understanding of the reasons behind the predictions. Similar approaches can be utilized in the development of an operational early warning surveillance system for dengue importation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9689
Pages (from-to)9689-9703
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2020


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