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In Frontiers in microbiology

Patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 at various severities have different clinical manifestations and treatments. Mild or moderate patients usually recover with conventional medical treatment, but severe patients require prompt professional treatment. Thus, stratifying infected patients for targeted treatment is meaningful. A computational workflow was designed in this study to identify key blood methylation features and rules that can distinguish the severity of SARS-CoV-2 infection. First, the methylation features in the expression profile were deeply analyzed by a Monte Carlo feature selection method. A feature list was generated. Next, this ranked feature list was fed into the incremental feature selection method to determine the optimal features for different classification algorithms, thereby further building optimal classifiers. These selected key features were analyzed by functional enrichment to detect their biofunctional information. Furthermore, a set of rules were set up by a white-box algorithm, decision tree, to uncover different methylation patterns on various severity of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Some genes (PARP9, MX1, IRF7), corresponding to essential methylation sites, and rules were validated by published academic literature. Overall, this study contributes to revealing potential expression features and provides a reference for patient stratification. The physicians can prioritize and allocate health and medical resources for COVID-19 patients based on their predicted severe clinical outcomes.

Liu Zhiyang, Meng Mei, Ding ShiJian, Zhou XiaoChao, Feng KaiYan, Huang Tao, Cai Yu-Dong


SARS-CoV-2, classification rule, machine learning, methylation, severity