Screening for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis using comorbidity signatures in electronic health records

Dmytro Onishchenko, Robert J. Marlowe, Che G. Ngufor, Louis J. Faust, Andrew H. Limper, Gary M. Hunninghake, Fernando J. Martinez, Ishanu Chattopadhyay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a lethal fibrosing interstitial lung disease with a mean survival time of less than 5 years. Nonspecific presentation, a lack of effective early screening tools, unclear pathobiology of early-stage IPF and the need for invasive and expensive procedures for diagnostic confirmation hinder early diagnosis. In this study, we introduce a new screening tool for IPF in primary care settings that requires no new laboratory tests and does not require recognition of early symptoms. Using subtle comorbidity signatures identified from the history of medical encounters of individuals, we developed an algorithm, called the zero-burden comorbidity risk score for IPF (ZCoR-IPF), to predict the future risk of an IPF diagnosis. ZCoR-IPF was trained on a national insurance claims database and validated on three independent databases, comprising a total of 2,983,215 participants, with 54,247 positive cases. The algorithm achieved positive likelihood ratios greater than 30 at a specificity of 0.99 across different cohorts, for both sexes, and for participants with different risk states and history of confounding diseases. The area under the receiver-operating characteristic curve for ZCoR-IPF in predicting IPF exceeded 0.88 and was approximately 0.84 at 1 and 4 years before a conventional diagnosis, respectively. Thus, if adopted, ZCoR-IPF can potentially enable earlier diagnosis of IPF and improve outcomes of disease-modifying therapies and other interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2107-2116
Number of pages10
JournalNature Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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