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PLoS One. 2014 Jun 6;9(6):e98534. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0098534. eCollection 2014.

Estimating diagnostic test accuracies for Brachyspira hyodysenteriae accounting for the complexities of population structure in food animals.

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Section of Epidemiology, Vetsuisse Faculty, Zurich, Switzerland.
Veterinary Public Health Institute, Vetsuisse Faculty, Liebefeld, Switzerland.
Department of Production and Population Health, Royal Veterinary College London, London, United Kingdom; Department of Clinical Veterinary Medicine, Vetsuisse Faculty, Zurich, Switzerland.
Field Station for Epidemiology, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Bakum, Germany.


For swine dysentery, which is caused by Brachyspira hyodysenteriae infection and is an economically important disease in intensive pig production systems worldwide, a perfect or error-free diagnostic test ("gold standard") is not available. In the absence of a gold standard, Bayesian latent class modelling is a well-established methodology for robust diagnostic test evaluation. In contrast to risk factor studies in food animals, where adjustment for within group correlations is both usual and required for good statistical practice, diagnostic test evaluation studies rarely take such clustering aspects into account, which can result in misleading results. The aim of the present study was to estimate test accuracies of a PCR originally designed for use as a confirmatory test, displaying a high diagnostic specificity, and cultural examination for B. hyodysenteriae. This estimation was conducted based on results of 239 samples from 103 herds originating from routine diagnostic sampling. Using Bayesian latent class modelling comprising of a hierarchical beta-binomial approach (which allowed prevalence across individual herds to vary as herd level random effect), robust estimates for the sensitivities of PCR and culture, as well as for the specificity of PCR, were obtained. The estimated diagnostic sensitivity of PCR (95% CI) and culture were 73.2% (62.3; 82.9) and 88.6% (74.9; 99.3), respectively. The estimated specificity of the PCR was 96.2% (90.9; 99.8). For test evaluation studies, a Bayesian latent class approach is well suited for addressing the considerable complexities of population structure in food animals.

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