Although inequalities in health and socioeconomic status have an important influence on childhood educational performance, the interactions between these multiple factors relating to variation in educational outcomes at micro-level is unknown, and how to evaluate the many possible interactions of these factors is not well established. This paper aims to examine multi-dimensional deprivation factors and their impact on childhood educational outcomes at micro-level, focusing on geographic areas having widely different disparity patterns, in which each area is characterised by six deprivation domains (Income, Health, Geographical Access to Services, Housing, Physical Environment, and Community Safety). Traditional health statistical studies tend to use one global model to describe the whole population for macro-analysis. In this paper, we combine linked educational and deprivation data across small areas (median population of 1500), then use a local modelling technique, the Takagi-Sugeno fuzzy system, to predict area educational outcomes at ages 7 and 11. We define two new metrics, "Micro-impact of Domain" and "Contribution of Domain", to quantify the variations of local impacts of multidimensional factors on educational outcomes across small areas. The two metrics highlight differing priorities. Our study reveals complex multi-way interactions between the deprivation domains, which could not be provided by traditional health statistical methods based on single global model. We demonstrate that although Income has an expected central role, all domains contribute, and in some areas Health, Environment, Access to Services, Housing and Community Safety each could be the dominant factor. Thus the relative importance of health and socioeconomic factors varies considerably for different areas, depending on the levels of each of the other factors, and therefore each component of deprivation must be considered as part of a wider system. Childhood educational achievement could benefit from policies and intervention strategies that are tailored to the local geographic areas' profiles.
Populations may potentially respond to climate change in various ways including moving to new areas or alternatively staying where they are and adapting as conditions shift. Traditional laboratory and mesocosm experiments last days to weeks and thus only give a limited picture of thermal adaptation, whereas ocean warming occurring over decades allows the potential for selection of new strains better adapted to warmer conditions. Evidence for adaptation in natural systems is equivocal. We used a 50-year time series comprising of 117 056 samples in the NE Atlantic, to quantify the abundance and distribution of two particularly important and abundant members of the ocean plankton (copepods of the genus Calanus) that play a key trophic role for fisheries. Abundance of C. finmarchicus, a cold-water species, and C. helgolandicus, a warm-water species, were negatively and positively related to sea surface temperature (SST) respectively. However, the abundance vs. SST relationships for neither species changed over time in a manner consistent with thermal adaptation. Accompanying the lack of evidence for thermal adaptation there has been an unabated range contraction for C. finmarchicus and range expansion for C. helgolandicus. Our evidence suggests that thermal adaptation has not mitigated the impacts of ocean warming for dramatic range changes of these key species and points to continued dramatic climate induced changes in the biology of the oceans.
Graduate entry medicine raises new questions about the suitability of students with different backgrounds. We examine this, and the broader issue of effectiveness of selection and assessment procedures.
The relationship between toxic marine microalgae species and climate change has become a high profile and well discussed topic in recent years, with research focusing on the possible future impacts of changing hydrological conditions on Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) species around the world. However, there is very little literature concerning the epidemiology of these species on marine organisms and human health. Here, we examine the current state of toxic microalgae species around the UK, in two ways: first we describe the key toxic syndromes and gather together the disparate reported data on their epidemiology from UK records and monitoring procedures. Secondly, using NHS hospital admissions and GP records from Wales, we attempt to quantify the incidence of shellfish poisoning from an independent source. We show that within the UK, outbreaks of shellfish poisoning are rare but occurring on a yearly basis in different regions and affecting a diverse range of molluscan shellfish and other marine organisms. We also show that the abundance of a species does not necessarily correlate to the rate of toxic events. Based on routine hospital records, the numbers of shellfish poisonings in the UK are very low, but the identification of the toxin involved, or even a confirmation of a poisoning event is extremely difficult to diagnose. An effective shellfish monitoring system, which shuts down aquaculture sites when toxins exceed regularity limits, has clearly prevented serious impact to human health, and remains the only viable means of monitoring the potential threat to human health. However, the closure of these sites has an adverse economic impact, and the monitoring system does not include all toxic plankton. The possible geographic spreading of toxic microalgae species is therefore a concern, as warmer waters in the Atlantic could suit several species with southern biogeographical affinities enabling them to occupy the coastal regions of the UK, but which are not yet monitored or considered to be detrimental.
To develop a population-based cohort of people with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) in Wales using (1) secondary care clinical datasets, (2) patient-derived questionnaire data and (3) routinely-collected information in order to examine disease history and the health economic cost of AS.
Species that have temperature-dependent sex determination (TSD) often produce highly skewed offspring sex ratios contrary to long-standing theoretical predictions. This ecological enigma has provoked concern that climate change may induce the production of single-sex generations and hence lead to population extirpation. All species of sea turtles exhibit TSD, many are already endangered, and most already produce sex ratios skewed to the sex produced at warmer temperatures (females). We tracked male loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) from Zakynthos, Greece, throughout the entire interval between successive breeding seasons and identified individuals on their breeding grounds, using photoidentification, to determine breeding periodicity and operational sex ratios. Males returned to breed at least twice as frequently as females. We estimated that the hatchling sex ratio of 70:30 female to male for this rookery will translate into an overall operational sex ratio (OSR) (i.e., ratio of total number of males vs females breeding each year) of close to 50:50 female to male. We followed three male turtles for between 10 and 12 months during which time they all traveled back to the breeding grounds. Flipper tagging revealed the proportion of females returning to nest after intervals of 1, 2, 3, and 4 years were 0.21, 0.38, 0.29, and 0.12, respectively (mean interval 2.3 years). A further nine male turtles were tracked for short periods to determine their departure date from the breeding grounds. These departure dates were combined with a photoidentification data set of 165 individuals identified on in-water transect surveys at the start of the breeding season to develop a statistical model of the population dynamics. This model produced a maximum likelihood estimate that males visit the breeding site 2.6 times more often than females (95%CI 2.1, 3.1), which was consistent with the data from satellite tracking and flipper tagging. Increased frequency of male breeding will help ameliorate female-biased hatchling sex ratios. Combined with the ability of males to fertilize the eggs of many females and for females to store sperm to fertilize many clutches, our results imply that effects of climate change on the viability of sea turtle populations are likely to be less acute than previously suspected.
The single rate codon model of non-synonymous substitution is ubiquitous in phylogenetic modeling. Indeed, the use of a non-synonymous to synonymous substitution rate ratio parameter has facilitated the interpretation of selection pressure on genomes. Although the single rate model has achieved wide acceptance, we argue that the assumption of a single rate of non-synonymous substitution is biologically unreasonable, given observed differences in substitution rates evident from empirical amino acid models. Some have attempted to incorporate amino acid substitution biases into models of codon evolution and have shown improved model performance versus the single rate model. Here, we show that the single rate model of non-synonymous substitution is easily outperformed by a model with multiple non-synonymous rate classes, yet in which amino acid substitution pairs are assigned randomly to these classes. We argue that, since the single rate model is so easy to improve upon, new codon models should not be validated entirely on the basis of improved model fit over this model. Rather, we should strive to both improve on the single rate model and to approximate the general time-reversible model of codon substitution, with as few parameters as possible, so as to reduce model over-fitting. We hint at how this can be achieved with a Genetic Algorithm approach in which rate classes are assigned on the basis of sequence information content.
Codon models of evolution have facilitated the interpretation of selective forces operating on genomes. These models, however, assume a single rate of non-synonymous substitution irrespective of the nature of amino acids being exchanged. Recent developments have shown that models which allow for amino acid pairs to have independent rates of substitution offer improved fit over single rate models. However, these approaches have been limited by the necessity for large alignments in their estimation. An alternative approach is to assume that substitution rates between amino acid pairs can be subdivided into rate classes, dependent on the information content of the alignment. However, given the combinatorially large number of such models, an efficient model search strategy is needed. Here we develop a Genetic Algorithm (GA) method for the estimation of such models. A GA is used to assign amino acid substitution pairs to a series of rate classes, where is estimated from the alignment. Other parameters of the phylogenetic Markov model, including substitution rates, character frequencies and branch lengths are estimated using standard maximum likelihood optimization procedures. We apply the GA to empirical alignments and show improved model fit over existing models of codon evolution. Our results suggest that current models are poor approximations of protein evolution and thus gene and organism specific multi-rate models that incorporate amino acid substitution biases are preferred. We further anticipate that the clustering of amino acid substitution rates into classes will be biologically informative, such that genes with similar functions exhibit similar clustering, and hence this clustering will be useful for the evolutionary fingerprinting of genes.
Genetically diverse pathogens (such as Human Immunodeficiency virus type 1, HIV-1) are frequently stratified into phylogenetically or immunologically defined subtypes for classification purposes. Computational identification of such subtypes is helpful in surveillance, epidemiological analysis and detection of novel variants, e.g., circulating recombinant forms in HIV-1. A number of conceptually and technically different techniques have been proposed for determining the subtype of a query sequence, but there is not a universally optimal approach. We present a model-based phylogenetic method for automatically subtyping an HIV-1 (or other viral or bacterial) sequence, mapping the location of breakpoints and assigning parental sequences in recombinant strains as well as computing confidence levels for the inferred quantities. Our Subtype Classification Using Evolutionary ALgorithms (SCUEAL) procedure is shown to perform very well in a variety of simulation scenarios, runs in parallel when multiple sequences are being screened, and matches or exceeds the performance of existing approaches on typical empirical cases. We applied SCUEAL to all available polymerase (pol) sequences from two large databases, the Stanford Drug Resistance database and the UK HIV Drug Resistance Database. Comparing with subtypes which had previously been assigned revealed that a minor but substantial (approximately 5%) fraction of pure subtype sequences may in fact be within- or inter-subtype recombinants. A free implementation of SCUEAL is provided as a module for the HyPhy package and the Datamonkey web server. Our method is especially useful when an accurate automatic classification of an unknown strain is desired, and is positioned to complement and extend faster but less accurate methods. Given the increasingly frequent use of HIV subtype information in studies focusing on the effect of subtype on treatment, clinical outcome, pathogenicity and vaccine design, the importance of accurate, robust and extensible subtyping procedures is clear.
The Takagi-Sugeno (TS) fuzzy rule system is a widely used data mining technique, and is of particular use in the identification of non-linear interactions between variables. However the number of rules increases dramatically when applied to high dimensional data sets (the curse of dimensionality). Few robust methods are available to identify important rules while removing redundant ones, and this results in limited applicability in fields such as epidemiology or bioinformatics where the interaction of many variables must be considered. Here, we develop a new parsimonious TS rule system. We propose three statistics: R, L, and ?-values, to rank the importance of each TS rule, and a forward selection procedure to construct a final model. We use our method to predict how key components of childhood deprivation combine to influence educational achievement outcome. We show that a parsimonious TS model can be constructed, based on a small subset of rules, that provides an accurate description of the relationship between deprivation indices and educational outcomes. The selected rules shed light on the synergistic relationships between the variables, and reveal that the effect of targeting specific domains of deprivation is crucially dependent on the state of the other domains. Policy decisions need to incorporate these interactions, and deprivation indices should not be considered in isolation. The TS rule system provides a basis for such decision making, and has wide applicability for the identification of non-linear interactions in complex biomedical data.
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