A statistical approach to scanning the biomedical literature for pharmacogenetics knowledge

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2005 Mar-Apr;12(2):121-9. doi: 10.1197/jamia.M1640. Epub 2004 Nov 23.


Objective: Biomedical databases summarize current scientific knowledge, but they generally require years of laborious curation effort to build, focusing on identifying pertinent literature and data in the voluminous biomedical literature. It is difficult to manually extract useful information embedded in the large volumes of literature, and automated intelligent text analysis tools are becoming increasingly essential to assist in these curation activities. The goal of the authors was to develop an automated method to identify articles in Medline citations that contain pharmacogenetics data pertaining to gene-drug relationships.

Design: The authors built and evaluated several candidate statistical models that characterize pharmacogenetics articles in terms of word usage and the profile of Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) used in those articles. The best-performing model was used to scan the entire Medline article database (11 million articles) to identify candidate pharmacogenetics articles.

Results: A sampling of the articles identified from scanning Medline was reviewed by a pharmacologist to assess the precision of the method. The authors' approach identified 4,892 pharmacogenetics articles in the literature with 92% precision. Their automated method took a fraction of the time to acquire these articles compared with the time expected to be taken to accumulate them manually. The authors have built a Web resource (http://pharmdemo.stanford.edu/pharmdb/main.spy) to provide access to their results.

Conclusion: A statistical classification approach can screen the primary literature to pharmacogenetics articles with high precision. Such methods may assist curators in acquiring pertinent literature in building biomedical databases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Bayes Theorem
  • Databases, Bibliographic / classification*
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • Logistic Models
  • Medical Subject Headings
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Pharmacogenetics* / statistics & numerical data