Bayesian modeling and inference for diagnostic accuracy and probability of disease based on multiple diagnostic biomarkers with and without a perfect reference standard

S. Reza Jafarzadeh, Wesley O. Johnson, Ian Gardner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


The area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve (AUC) is used as a performance metric for quantitative tests. Although multiple biomarkers may be available for diagnostic or screening purposes, diagnostic accuracy is often assessed individually rather than in combination. In this paper, we consider the interesting problem of combining multiple biomarkers for use in a single diagnostic criterion with the goal of improving the diagnostic accuracy above that of an individual biomarker. The diagnostic criterion created from multiple biomarkers is based on the predictive probability of disease, conditional on given multiple biomarker outcomes. If the computed predictive probability exceeds a specified cutoff, the corresponding subject is allocated as 'diseased'. This defines a standard diagnostic criterion that has its own ROC curve, namely, the combined ROC (cROC). The AUC metric for cROC, namely, the combined AUC (cAUC), is used to compare the predictive criterion based on multiple biomarkers to one based on fewer biomarkers. A multivariate random-effects model is proposed for modeling multiple normally distributed dependent scores. Bayesian methods for estimating ROC curves and corresponding (marginal) AUCs are developed when a perfect reference standard is not available. In addition, cAUCs are computed to compare the accuracy of different combinations of biomarkers for diagnosis. The methods are evaluated using simulations and are applied to data for Johne's disease (paratuberculosis) in cattle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)859-876
Number of pages18
JournalStatistics in Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2016



  • AUC
  • Bayes' theorem
  • Biomarker combination
  • Imperfect reference standard
  • Receiver operating characteristic curve

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Statistics and Probability

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