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J Med Internet Res. 2012 May 29;14(3):e73. doi: 10.2196/jmir.2043.

Building a transnational biosurveillance network using semantic web technologies: requirements, design, and preliminary evaluation.

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  • 1University Hospitals of Geneva, Switzerland.



Antimicrobial resistance has reached globally alarming levels and is becoming a major public health threat. Lack of efficacious antimicrobial resistance surveillance systems was identified as one of the causes of increasing resistance, due to the lag time between new resistances and alerts to care providers. Several initiatives to track drug resistance evolution have been developed. However, no effective real-time and source-independent antimicrobial resistance monitoring system is available publicly.


To design and implement an architecture that can provide real-time and source-independent antimicrobial resistance monitoring to support transnational resistance surveillance. In particular, we investigated the use of a Semantic Web-based model to foster integration and interoperability of interinstitutional and cross-border microbiology laboratory databases.


Following the agile software development methodology, we derived the main requirements needed for effective antimicrobial resistance monitoring, from which we proposed a decentralized monitoring architecture based on the Semantic Web stack. The architecture uses an ontology-driven approach to promote the integration of a network of sentinel hospitals or laboratories. Local databases are wrapped into semantic data repositories that automatically expose local computing-formalized laboratory information in the Web. A central source mediator, based on local reasoning, coordinates the access to the semantic end points. On the user side, a user-friendly Web interface provides access and graphical visualization to the integrated views.


We designed and implemented the online Antimicrobial Resistance Trend Monitoring System (ARTEMIS) in a pilot network of seven European health care institutions sharing 70+ million triples of information about drug resistance and consumption. Evaluation of the computing performance of the mediator demonstrated that, on average, query response time was a few seconds (mean 4.3, SD 0.1 × 10(2) seconds). Clinical pertinence assessment showed that resistance trends automatically calculated by ARTEMIS had a strong positive correlation with the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Network (EARS-Net) (ρ = .86, P < .001) and the Sentinel Surveillance of Antibiotic Resistance in Switzerland (SEARCH) (ρ = .84, P < .001) systems. Furthermore, mean resistance rates extracted by ARTEMIS were not significantly different from those of either EARS-Net (∆ = ±0.130; 95% confidence interval -0 to 0.030; P < .001) or SEARCH (∆ = ±0.042; 95% confidence interval -0.004 to 0.028; P = .004).


We introduce a distributed monitoring architecture that can be used to build transnational antimicrobial resistance surveillance networks. Results indicated that the Semantic Web-based approach provided an efficient and reliable solution for development of eHealth architectures that enable online antimicrobial resistance monitoring from heterogeneous data sources. In future, we expect that more health care institutions can join the ARTEMIS network so that it can provide a large European and wider biosurveillance network that can be used to detect emerging bacterial resistance in a multinational context and support public health actions.

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