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ZIMS: Data serving the needs of zoological medicine

The following is the first installment of a two-part blog about how to make the most
of ZIMS’s big data and data mining. Read Part 2.

Long before “big data” and “data mining” became a part of our modern lexicon, Species360 (formerly ISIS) worked to extract information from large data sets and provide useful summaries for member institutions. Indeed, one of the founding goals for Species360 was medical in nature. It involved collecting blood test results for a wide variety of non-domestic species and using that data to provide medical reference values to the veterinary community. That global collaboration produced a series of publications, the Physiological Reference Intervals for Captive Wildlife. Over the next 40 years, an ever-growing data set and improved calculation techniques ensured that the resulting reference interval publications remained a cornerstone of zoological medicine and an invaluable resource for clinical veterinarians working in zoos and aquariums. Incorporated into ZIMS in 2014, this unique resource is now easily accessible by all member institutions.

Zebras with mouths openOver the past 2 years, a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has supported Species360’s efforts to design and create three additional global medical resources. As with the reference intervals project, these new resources are based on the information contained in ZIMS medical records.  As with any data mining project, producing these resources is not a simple task and requires locating the highest-quality records, extracting the useful data and summarizing that medical information in a form that will benefit clinicians. The first two resources, Drug Usage Extracts and Anesthesia Summaries, were completed and released as part of ZIMS in June 2015 and April 2016 respectively. Updating both resources is a regular event, ensuring that they provide the most current information available and their continuous growth since release, reflects the medical records added to ZIMS on a daily basis.

The Drug Usage Extracts resource relies on ZIMS prescription records to provide information about commonly used pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines. The first step in the analysis groups prescription based on species, the active drug ingredient(s), administration route and frequency of dosing.  Each cluster of records then contains comparable information allowing calculation of mean, median and a range of dosages, as well as providing a summary of information about duration of treatment and the occurrence of adverse (side) effects.  A true Drug Formulary is never likely to be available for the majority of species held by member institutions, but this resource comes close, providing clinicians with a snapshot of the drugs, dosages and treatment frequency that their peers have used in a specific species. Whether the clinician is looking for an alternative antibiotic for an infection in a ratsnake or a cardiac medication for their gorilla, this resource can be an invaluable starting place.

tokay_geckoAs you might expect, Anesthesia Summaries uses the ZIMS anesthesia records to provide members with information about drugs and drug combinations used to anesthetize wildlife species. As with the other global medical resources, the basic organization is by species. The initial analysis page displays information based on all available records regarding the most commonly used drug combinations, dosages and occurrence of complications and/or anesthesia recovery problems for the specified species. However, acknowledging that many, many additional factors, such as fasting time, age, weight, initial health status, can influence an anesthesia event, the Anesthesia Summaries pages are not a strictly static resource. Instead, each overall species page has a filter section that allows the users to select specific values for these additional analysis factors and update the summaries page based on the selected values. This provides the user with the opportunity to customize the resource to meet the specific needs of their situation.

–J. Andrew Teare, DVM

Come back next week and learn more!


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