Can twitter be a source of information on allergy? Correlation of pollen counts with tweets reporting symptoms of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis and names of antihistamine drugs

Francesco Gesualdo, Giovanni Stilo, Angelo D'Ambrosio, Emanuela Carloni, Elisabetta Pandolfi, Paola Velardi, Alessandro Fiocchi, Alberto E. Tozzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Pollen forecasts are in use everywhere to inform therapeutic decisions for patients with allergic rhinoconjunctivitis (ARC). We exploited data derived from Twitter in order to identify tweets reporting a combination of symptoms consistent with a case definition of ARC and those reporting the name of an antihistamine drug. In order to increase the sensitivity of the system, we applied an algorithm aimed at automatically identifying jargon expressions related to medical terms. We compared weekly Twitter trends with National Allergy Bureau weekly pollen counts derived from US stations, and found a high correlation of the sum of the total pollen counts from each stations with tweets reporting ARC symptoms (Pearson's correlation coefficient: 0.95) and with tweets reporting antihistamine drug names (Pearson's correlation coefficient: 0.93). Longitude and latitude of the pollen stations affected the strength of the correlation. Twitter and other social networks may play a role in allergic disease surveillance and in signaling drug consumptions trends.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0133706
JournalPLoS One
Volume10
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 21 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)

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