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Development and Validation of Manually Modified and Supervised Machine Learning Clinical Assessment Algorithms for Malaria in Nigerian Children.

Abstract

It is currently estimated that 67% of malaria deaths occur in children under-five years (WHO, 2020). To improve the identification of children at clinical risk for malaria, the WHO developed community (iCCM) and clinic-based (IMCI) protocols for frontline health workers using paper-based forms or digital mobile health (mHealth) platforms. To investigate improving the accuracy of these point-of-care clinical risk assessment protocols for malaria in febrile children, we embedded a malaria rapid diagnostic test (mRDT) workflow into THINKMD's (IMCI) mHealth clinical risk assessment platform. This allowed us to perform a comparative analysis of THINKMD-generated malaria risk assessments with mRDT truth data to guide modification of THINKMD algorithms, as well as develop new supervised machine learning (ML) malaria risk algorithms. We utilized paired clinical data and malaria risk assessments acquired from over 555 children presenting to five health clinics in Kano, Nigeria to train ML algorithms to identify malaria cases using symptom and location data, as well as confirmatory mRDT results. Supervised ML random forest algorithms were generated using 80% of our field-based data as the ML training set and 20% to test our new ML logic. New ML-based malaria algorithms showed an increased sensitivity and specificity of 60 and 79%, and PPV and NPV of 76 and 65%, respectively over THINKD initial IMCI-based algorithms. These results demonstrate that combining mRDT "truth" data with digital mHealth platform clinical assessments and clinical data can improve identification of children with malaria/non-malaria attributable febrile illnesses.

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