Purpose: Recognizing individuals with inherited diseases can be difficult because signs and symptoms often overlap those of common medical conditions. Focusing on inborn errors of metabolism (IEMs), we present a method that brings the knowledge of highly specialized experts to professionals involved in early diagnoses. We introduce IEMbase, an online expert-curated IEM knowledge base combined with a prototype diagnosis support (mini-expert) system.
Methods: Disease-characterizing profiles of specific biochemical markers and clinical symptoms were extracted from an expert-compiled IEM database. A mini-expert system algorithm was developed using cosine similarity and semantic similarity. The system was evaluated using 190 retrospective cases with established diagnoses, collected from 15 different metabolic centers.
Results: IEMbase provides 530 well-defined IEM profiles and matches a user-provided phenotypic profile to a list of candidate diagnoses/genes. The mini-expert system matched 62% of the retrospective cases to the exact diagnosis and 86% of the cases to a correct diagnosis within the top five candidates. The use of biochemical features in IEM annotations resulted in 41% more exact phenotype matches than clinical features alone.
Conclusion: IEMbase offers a central IEM knowledge repository for many genetic diagnostic centers and clinical communities seeking support in the diagnosis of IEMs.