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Interpretable Machine Learning Applied to On-farm Biosecurity and Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus

Effective biosecurity practices in swine production are key in preventing the introduction and dissemination of infectious pathogens. Ideally, on-farm biosecurity practices should be chosen by their impact on bio-containment and bio-exclusion, however quantitative supporting evidence is often unavailable. Therefore, the development of methodologies capable of quantifying and ranking biosecurity practices according to their efficacy in reducing disease risk have the potential to facilitate better informed choices of biosecurity practices. Using survey data on biosecurity practices, farm demographics, and previous outbreaks from 139 herds, a set of machine learning algorithms were trained to classify farms by porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus status, depending on their biosecurity practices and farm demographics, to produce a predicted outbreak risk. A novel interpretable machine learning toolkit, MrIML-biosecurity, was developed to benchmark farms and production systems by predicted risk, and quantify the impact of biosecurity practices on disease risk at individual farms. Quantifying the variable impact on predicted risk 50% of 42 variables were associated with fomite spread while 31% were associated with local transmission. Results from machine learning interpretations identified similar results, finding substantial contribution to predicted outbreak risk from biosecurity practices relating to: the turnover and number of employees; the surrounding density of swine premises and pigs; the sharing of haul trailers; distance from the public road; and farm production type.

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