Expert elicitation for the judgment of prion disease risk uncertainties

Tyshenko, Michael G and ElSaadany, Susie and Oraby, Tamer and Darshan, Shalu and Aspinall, Willy and Cooke, Roger and Catford, Angela and Krewski, Daniel (2011) Expert elicitation for the judgment of prion disease risk uncertainties. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A: Current Issues, 74 (2-4). pp. 261-285.

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There is a high level of uncertainty surrounding the potential for iatrogenic prion transmission through transplantation, medical instrument reuse, blood transfusion, and blood product use due to a lack of evidence-based research on this important risk issue. A group of specialists was enlisted to evaluate some of the knowledge gaps in this area using the “Classical Model,” a structured elicitation procedure for weighting and pooling expert judgment. The elicitation exercise was undertaken in March 2009 with 11 transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) experts who were first calibrated using a series of seed questions for which the answers are known; they were then asked to answer a number of target questions that are important for risk assessment purposes, but for which there remains high uncertainty at this time. The target questions focused on variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (vCJD) prevalence, incubation times for vCJD, genetic susceptibility to prion disease, blood infectivity, prion reduction of blood and blood products, surgical instrument risks, and interspecies transmission of TSEs. The experts were also asked to perform pairwise risk rankings for 12 different potential routes of infection. Dura mater transplantation was seen as having the highest risk, while dental tissue grafts were viewed as presenting the lowest risk of iatrogenic transmission. The structured elicitation procedure provides a rational, auditable, and repeatable basis for obtaining useful information on prion disease risk issues, for which data are sparse.