Clinically Adjudicated Reference Standards for Evaluation of Infectious Diseases Diagnostics.


Lack of a gold standard can present a challenge for evaluation of diagnostic test accuracy of some infectious diseases tests, particularly when the test's accuracy potentially exceeds that of its predecessors. This approach may measure agreement with an imperfect reference, rather than correctness, because the right answer is unknown. Solutions consist of multitest comparators, including those that involve a test under evaluation if multiple new tests are being evaluated together, using latent class modeling, and clinically adjudicated reference standards. Clinically adjudicated reference standards may be considered as comparator methods when no predefined test or composite of tests is sufficiently accurate; they emulate clinical practice in that multiple data pieces are clinically assessed together.





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Publication Info

Patel, Robin, Ephraim L Tsalik, Scott Evans, Vance G Fowler, Sarah B Doernberg and undefined Antibacterial Resistance Leadership Group (2023). Clinically Adjudicated Reference Standards for Evaluation of Infectious Diseases Diagnostics. Clinical infectious diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, 76(5). pp. 938–943. 10.1093/cid/ciac829 Retrieved from

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Ephraim Tsalik

Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine

My research at Duke has focused on understanding the dynamic between host and pathogen so as to discover and develop host-response markers that can diagnose and predict health and disease.  This new and evolving approach to diagnosing illness has the potential to significantly impact individual as well as public health considering the rise of antibiotic resistance.

With any potential infectious disease diagnosis, it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine at the time of presentation what the underlying cause of illness is.  For example, acute respiratory illness is among the most frequent reasons for patients to seek care. These symptoms, such as cough, sore throat, and fever may be due to a bacterial infection, viral infection, both, or a non-infectious condition such as asthma or allergies.  Given the difficulties in making the diagnosis, most patients are inappropriately given antibacterials.  However, each of these etiologies (bacteria, virus, or something else entirely) leaves a fingerprint embedded in the host’s response. We are very interested in finding those fingerprints and exploiting them to generate new approaches to understand, diagnose, and manage disease.

These principles also apply to sepsis, defined as life-threatening organ dysfunction caused by a dysregulated host response to infection. Just as with acute respiratory illness, it is often difficult to identify whether infection is responsible for a patient’s critical illness.  We have embarked on a number of research programs that aim to better identify sepsis; define sepsis subtypes that can be used to guide future clinical research; and to better predict sepsis outcomes.  These efforts have focused on many systems biology modalities including transcriptomics, miRNA, metabolomics, and proteomics.  Consequently, our Data Science team has utilized these highly complex data to develop new statistical methods, furthering both the clinical and statistical research communities.

These examples are just a small sampling of the breadth of research Dr. Tsalik and his colleagues have conducted.  

In April 2022, Dr. Tsalik has joined Danaher Diagnostics as the VP and Chief Scientific Officer for Infectious Disease, where he is applying this experience in biomarkers and diagnostics to shape the future of diagnostics in ID. 

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