Towards an Ontological Representation of Resistance: The Case of MRSA

Journal of Biomedical Informatics 44 (1):35-41 (2011)
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Abstract

This paper addresses a family of issues surrounding the biological phenomenon of resistance and its representation in realist ontologies. The treatments of resistance terms in various existing ontologies are examined and found to be either overly narrow, internally inconsistent, or otherwise problematic. We propose a more coherent characterization of resistance in terms of what we shall call blocking dispositions, which are collections of mutually coordinated dispositions which are of such a sort that they cannot undergo simultaneous realization within a single bearer. A definition of ‘protective resistance’ is proposed for use in the Infectious Disease Ontology (IDO) and we show how this definition can be used to characterize the antibiotic resistance in Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The ontological relations between entities in our MRSA case study are used alongside a series of logical inference rules to illustrate logical reasoning about resistance. A description logic representation of blocking dispositions is also provided. We demonstrate that our characterization of resistance is sufficiently general to cover two other cases of resistance in the infectious disease domain involving HIV and malaria.

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Barry Smith
University at Buffalo

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