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08 June 2024: Clinical Research  

Machine Learning-Based Prediction of Infection Study in Adults

Min Liu1ACE, Shiyu Liu2ABDG, Zhaolin Lu3DEF, Hu Chen4CD, Yuling Xu1BF, Xue Gong1CF, Guangxia Chen2AEG*

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.943666

Med Sci Monit 2024; 30:e943666




BACKGROUND: Helicobacter pylori has a high infection rate worldwide, and epidemiological study of H. pylori is important. Artificial intelligence has been widely used in the field of medical research and has become a hotspot in recent years. This paper proposed a prediction model for H. pylori infection based on machine learning in adults.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: Adult patients were selected as research participants, and information on 30 factors was collected. The chi-square test, mutual information, ReliefF, and information gain were used to screen the feature factors and establish 2 subsets. We constructed an H. pylori infection prediction model based on XGBoost and optimized the model using a grid search by analyzing the correlation between features. The performance of the model was assessed by comparing its accuracy, recall, precision, F1 score, and AUC with those of 4 other classical machine learning methods.

RESULTS: The model performed better on the part B subset than on the part A subset. Compared with the other 4 machine learning methods, the model had the highest accuracy, recall, F1 score, and AUC. SHAP was used to evaluate the importance of features in the model. It was found that H. pylori infection of family members, living in rural areas, poor washing hands before meals and after using the toilet were risk factors for H. pylori infection.

CONCLUSIONS: The model proposed in this paper is superior to other models in predicting H. pylori infection and can provide a scientific basis for identifying the population susceptible to H. pylori and preventing H. pylori infection.

Keywords: machine learning, Helicobacter pylori, Clinical Decision Rules


Helicobacter pylori is currently known to be the only spiral-type, gram-negative microaerobic bacteria that can survive in the human stomach and colonize human gastric mucosal epithelial cells. H. pylori infection can cause gastric ulcers, chronic gastritis, duodenal ulcers, and other digestive diseases [1]. Globally, the infection rate of H. pylori is approximately more than half, and it is one of the bacteria with the highest infection rates. The infection rate in developing countries is higher than that in developed countries, and the prevalence of H. pylori infection in low- and middle-income countries is significantly higher than that in high-income countries [2]. China is a country with a high H. pylori infection rate, with an average rate of 44.2% [3]. In recent years, with the improvement of public health and hygiene awareness, the H. pylori infection rate has slowly decreased; however. it is still high, and there are large differences among different provinces. H. pylori infection is an important cause of gastric cancer. One study showed that the eradication of H. pylori in the first-degree relatives of patients with gastric cancer could reduce the risk of gastric cancer [4]. Therefore, the prevention, detection, and treatment of H. pylori are very important. Exploring the risk factors for H. pylori infection can provide information for the prevention and screening of H. pylori. At present, many researchers in China and abroad have conducted a wide range of epidemiological studies on H. pylori. It was found that the general information [5–7], socioeconomic status [8,9], individual living habits [10–12], and family history [13] of patients were related to H. pylori infection to a certain extent. The risk factors for H. pylori infection can also be related to the population characteristics and regional characteristics included in a study.

Most of the existing research on disease risk factors in China and abroad [14–16] adopts the methods of univariate analysis and logistic regression. Single factor analysis cannot consider all the factors of the disease at the same time and ignores the internal relationship between factors. Logistic regression is more suitable for dealing with linear variables, considering that all factors included in the model have a linear relationship to the disease [17]; however, there may actually be a nonlinear relationship in clinical practice. Therefore, it is not rigorous or accurate to use only univariate analysis and logistic regression in the analysis of disease risk factors and the construction of disease prediction models. In addition, most of the existing studies on the risk factors for H. pylori infection have shortcomings, such as incomplete inclusion factors, vague effects of some factors on H. pylori infection, and a lack of assessment tools for the susceptible population of H. pylori.

At present, a large number of clinical prediction models have adopted machine learning methods [18] and have a wide range of applications [19,20]. By analyzing the clinical data of patients, such as medical records and biomarkers, they can predict the risk, diagnosis, or treatment effect of diseases. Compared with traditional logistic regression analysis, the advantages of machine learning methods [21] are efficient learning ability, strong plasticity and flexibility, and strong processing ability of nonlinear relationships [22]. Maleki et al [23] developed a machine learning method based on gradient-enhanced decision trees, which achieved the best performance, showed high discriminative ability, and can be used to personalize the prediction of gastric cancer incidence using initial endoscopy results, histological results, and patient baseline conditions. Forrest et al [24] developed a coronary artery disease prediction model based on random forest and established a quantitative marker of coronary artery disease from probabilities of a machine learning model. Nyssen et al [25] identified important treatment strategies and analyzed compliance and treatment effects of different treatment regimens by random forest and clustering on multi-correspondence components on the European Registry on H. pylori management first-line treatment data. Leung et al [26] evaluated the performances of different machine learning models in predicting gastric cancer risk after H. pylori eradication and found XGBoost had the best performance in predicting cancer development and was superior to conventional logistic regression. Takeshi et al [27] developed a universal endoscopic machine learning method to diagnose H. pylori infection, with 87.6% accuracy. Shen et al [28] evaluated a computer-aided decision-support system for H. pylori infection based on a convolutional neural network under endoscopy. It achieved high sensitivity in the diagnosis of H. pylori infection, outperforming endoscopic diagnosis by endoscopists, and was comparable with rapid urease testing. Luo et al [29] developed 2 deep learning-based models for identifying chronic atrophic gastritis from gastroscopic images, one of which had an ability to identify gastric antrum atrophy comparable to that of human experts. Tran et al [30] used XGBoost to predict the status of H. pylori infection in preschool children and identify risk factors, and obtained an accuracy comparable to that of logistic regression.

The different machine learning methods used in the above studies can be related to the number and characteristics of the datasets. In conclusion, the performance of machine learning clinical prediction models was non-inferior to that of logistic regression in many disease domains, and the application of the field of machine learning and deep learning in H. pylori mostly focused on the eradication effect after treatment, risk of cancer of the stomach, and endoscopic image recognition. The application of artificial intelligence technology in medical research has promoted the progress of medicine to a certain extent.

To the best of our knowledge, there is no clinical prediction model for H. pylori infection in adults based on machine learning and patient clinical data. Therefore, we conducted a prospective study on the epidemiological investigation of H. pylori in the First People’s Hospital of Xuzhou, China. We collected personal information of adult patients tested for H. pylori in Xuzhou and surrounding areas. We aimed to develop a prediction model for H. pylori infection and screen the risk factors for H. pylori infection to provide a scientific basis for identifying the population susceptible to H. pylori and preventing H. pylori infection.

Material and Methods


Patients who were admitted to Xuzhou First People’s Hospital from July 2022 to July 2023 and underwent 13C breath tests were included in the study. This study met medical ethics standards and was approved by the ethics committee of our hospital (approval number: xyyl1[2023]053). The inclusion criteria were as follows: age between 18 and 80 years; sex, male and female; 13C breath test was performed; and informed consent was obtained. Exclusion criteria were as follows: pregnant and lactating women; patients with psychiatric diagnoses; patients taking antacids, antibiotics, bismuth and other drugs affecting 13C breath detection in the past 2 weeks; and patients with heart, lung, kidney, and other underlying endocrine diseases. This study included 30 factors, and in calculating the sample size, the number of patients should be 5 to 10 times the number of factors included, with a 10% loss to follow-up rate, and a 50% estimated infection rate of H. pylori. The sample-size formula resulted in the enrollment of at least 660 patients (30*10* (1+10%)÷50%=660).


CiteSpace, a software tool for visualizing and analyzing scientific literature, was used to identify co-occurring keywords in studies related to the risk factors for H. pylori infection, and a risk factor questionnaire was developed after discussion with experts. A total of 30 characteristics were included, mainly including the following 4 aspects: (1) general information: sex, age, body mass index (BMI), hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, gastrointestinal polyps, peptic ulcer, non-atrophic gastritis, and atrophic gastritis; (2) socioeconomic status: marriage, education level, residence, family permanent population; (3) individual living habits: smoking, drinking alcohol, tea drinking, consumption of yogurt, soy products, garlic, fried food, spicy food, high-salt food, and pickled food, water source, dining style, washing hands before meals and after toilet use, and sharing tableware; and (4) family history: whether the family members had H. pylori infection or gastric disease history (H. pylori family).

After ethical review by our hospital, the paper questionnaire of risk factors or the WeChat mini program of risk factor survey was used to collect data. The WeChat platform was designed and developed by authors ML and GC to investigate patients’ clinical information. The purpose of the study was explained to the research participants, and informed consent was signed before the investigation.

The 13C breath test was used to detect H. pylori infection, and the patients were fasted for more than 2 h before the test. The patient exhaled and filled the air collection bag, took a 13C-urea capsule, waited 20 min before exhaling, and filled the air collection bag into another air collection bag. Finally, the 13C breath analyzer (Beijing Huayuan Kangda Medical Equipment Co., LTD.) was used for detection. Results: delta over baseline <4.0 was considered negative; delta over baseline ≥4.0 was considered positive.


Excluding the data with missing values, 30 characteristics of 677 samples were preprocessed. Continuous variables, such as age and BMI, were stratified and converted into 4 categorical variables, the variables were coded into numerical form, and the binary variables were coded with 0 and 1. The 4 categorical variables were coded with 1, 2, 3, and 4, and each code was expressed as a category.

To improve the performance of the prediction models, reduce overfitting, and reduce computational costs, feature selection was first performed on the dataset to reduce the number of redundant features. However, models based on a certain feature selection algorithm may not have been representative; therefore, we selected multiple commonly used feature selection algorithms to screen the common features of these algorithms for subsequent modeling and prediction. In this study, the data in which the dependent variable (H. pylori infection) was a binary variable and the number of features to be screened (30 items) were used to select the feature selection methods for categorical variables: chi-square test, mutual information, ReliefF, and information gain.

The chi-square test is a commonly used feature selection method in classification problems that measures the correlation between features and target variables by calculating the chi-square statistic between them. A higher chi-square value indicates a higher correlation between the features and the target variable, and the magnitude of the chi-square value of the features was used to rank the important features. Mutual information can be used to assess the correlation between features and target variables, with higher mutual information values indicating higher correlation between features and target variables. ReliefF is a feature selection algorithm based on the filtering method, and the goal is to select the most discriminative K features. However, to screen features together with the other 3 methods, the number of features is not specified, and the importance scores of all features are output to measure the contribution to the classification task. High scores indicate a greater contribution to the classification task. Information gain is a method to screen features based on the concept of information theory. The information gain of features is obtained by calculating the entropy of the overall dataset and the entropy difference of each feature, and the contribution degree of features to the target variable is measured by comparing the value of the information gain of each feature.

According to the evaluation index of the 4 algorithms, ranking and importance assignment were performed (for example, the maximum chi-square value of the feature assignment was 1, and the minimum chi-square value of the feature assignment was 30). The sum of the importance assignment of the 4 algorithms for each feature was calculated and ranked from small to large, and the top 10 and top 15 subsets were selected.


Considering that there were 422 H. pylori-positive patients (62.33%) and 255 H. pylori-negative patients (37.67%) in the dataset, there was a class imbalance problem, which may have caused the prediction performance of the training model to be biased toward the majority of classes. Therefore, we used the Synthetic Minority Over-sampling TEchnique (SMOTE) to synthesize minority class samples and balance the dataset to improve the recognition ability of the model.

Five-fold cross-validation is a method of dividing the training set and the test set. The feature-filtered dataset was divided into 5 mutually exclusive subsets, 4 of which were used for training, and the remaining subset was used for testing, and the results were repeated 5 times. The average of the 5 calculation results was used as the evaluation index to evaluate the performance of the model more stably and reduce the influence on the specific dataset.


Xgboost and several classical machine learning models – support vector machine, logistic regression, random forest training, and naive Bayes – were used to establish clinical prediction models of H. pylori, and the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) value was used to perform grid search and 5-fold cross validation to adjust parameters.

The evaluation indicators accuracy, recall, precision, F1 score, and AUC were used to evaluate the training effect of the model. Accuracy can judge the total accuracy and is the simplest and most intuitive evaluation index. Recall, also known as sensitivity, measures the ability of the model to find positive samples. Precision, also known as the positive prediction rate, measures how well the model predicts positive samples. The F1 score can comprehensively consider 2 indicators of recall and precision, which can better measure the overall performance of the binary classification model. The AUC value is an indicator to evaluate the classification effect of the model. It can measure the ability of the model to distinguish between positive and negative samples. The higher the AUC value is, the better the model performance.


SHapley Additive exPlanations (SHAP), which is based on game theory, is widely used in explanatory machine learning technology. Compared with the feature importance evaluation method of the model, SHAP not only shows the contribution of each factor to the prediction result but also shows the contribution direction of the prediction result. A positive SHAP value indicates the contribution degree of the feature value to the positive prediction result, and a negative SHAP value indicates the contribution degree of the feature value to the reverse prediction result; therefore, it can be determined whether the feature value belongs to a protective factor or a risk factor.


Measurement data, such as age and BMI, were stratified, and all characteristic data were expressed as numbers and ratios. SPSS 22.0 software was used for the chi-square test and t test. Heatmap was drawn in Excel. Python 3.11.4 and the code running software Jupyter were used to process mutual information, ReliefF and information gain, to construct the machine learning model, and to adjust the parameters. AUC values were set with a 2-sided 95% CI test. ROC curves, bar plots, scatter plots, and violin plots were drawn in Python.



The flow chart of this study is shown in Figure 1. After excluding 27 pieces of data with missing values, 677 valid information points were included. Table 1 shows the investigation results of H. pylori-positive patients and H. pylori-negative patients in different eigenvalues of 30 features in 667 samples and shows them by the number of cases and percentage. Among them, 422 patients (62.33%) were positive for H. pylori, and 255 patients (37.67%) were negative for H. pylori. Among 319 male patients, 214 (67.08%) were positive for H. pylori, and among 358 female patients, 208 (58.10%) were positive for H. pylori. The age of H. pylori-positive patients was concentrated between 30 and 60 years old. H. pylori infection seemed to be more concentrated in people with higher education levels (30.57%). The proportions of non-atrophic gastritis, atrophic gastritis, and peptic ulcer in H. pylori-positive patients were higher than those in H. pylori-negative patients. The proportions of hyperlipidemia, hypertension, diabetes, and polyps were similar between H. pylori-positive patients and H. pylori-negative patients.


To eliminate some irrelevant or redundant variables in the database to improve the prediction performance of the model, 4 commonly used feature selection methods were integrated for feature optimization: chi-square test, mutual information, ReliefF, and information gain for assignment importance ranking of 30 features by heatmap (Figure 2). The X-axis represents each feature, and the Y-axis represents the 4 model feature selection methods. The color of the heatmap represents the chi-square value, mutual information value, ReliefF eigenvalue, and information gain value (red represents the high value, and blue represents the low value), the number on the color block is the value size, and the ranking of the importance of comprehensive assignment is arranged from high to low on the heatmap from left to right. The top 10 features of the sum of the assigned importance of the 4 algorithms are H. pylori infection in family, region, education (edu), non-atrophic gastritis, family cutlery, age, salt, bean, pickled food, and handwashing. The dataset of these 10 features is defined as part A. The top 15 features are H. pylori infection in family, region, edu, non-atrophic gastritis, family cutlery, age, salt, bean, pickled food, handwashing, alcohol, spicy, garlic, pickled food, and tea. The dataset defining these 15 features is part B.


The comparison between the proposed model and the other 4 models after parameter tuning, the Xgboost model, support vector machine model, logistic regression model, random forest model, and naive Bayes model, were trained and parameters were tuned on the part A and part B datasets (Table 2). The performance evaluation is shown in Table 3 and Figure 3. By comparing accuracy, recall, precision, F1 score, and AUC, we found that most of the performance indicators of the 5 models were better on the part B dataset than on the part A dataset. It may be that part A included fewer key features, resulting in information loss and making the model unable to make accurate predictions. The Xgboost model trained on the part A dataset was higher than the other 4 models in terms of other performance indicators, except precision. On the part B dataset, our proposed model and the random forest model both showed high performance, with AUC values of 0.861 and 0.848, respectively. Comparing the performance indicators of 5 training models of the 2 datasets, it was found that in addition to precision, the accuracy, recall, F1 score, and AUC value of this model on the part B dataset were the highest, and the model performed best. In addition, we used t tests to compare the mean value of the performance indexes of other models with the Xgboost model. However, Xgboost did not show significant differences in either dataset, part A or part B.


SHAP was used to evaluate the feature importance. Figures 4 and 5 show the results of the feature importance evaluation of the model proposed in this study on the H. pylori infection situation prediction task. The bar chart in Figure 4 shows the average influence of each characteristic factor on the output magnitude of the model (the degree of influence of characteristic factors is in order of high and low). It can be seen from the figure that the most important characteristic factor is H. pylori infection in family members, and living area, washing hands before meals and after using the toilet, non-atrophic gastritis, and family sharing of tableware also have certain importance. The scatter plot in Figure 5 shows the distribution of the impact of each feature on the model output. On the abscissa, negative SHAP values indicate a decreased risk of infection, positive SHAP values indicate an increased risk of infection, and the color represents the magnitude of the feature value (red for larger feature values, blue for smaller feature values). According to the scatter distribution in the figure, it can be seen that the larger eigenvalue, H. pylori infection in family members, is the risk factor for H. pylori infection. Non-atrophic gastritis is also a risk factor for H. pylori infection.

Since scatter plots are usually used to visualize dichotomous variables, violin plots were drawn for the 4 categorical variables of living area, hand washing before meals and after toilet, and household sharing of utensils to show the influence of different characteristic values on the model, and the positive and negative SHAP values were used to mark risk factors and protective factors, as shown in Figure 6. Living area characteristic value 1 (urban residence) was a protective factor for H. pylori infection, and characteristic value 4 (rural residence) was a risk factor for H. pylori infection. The characteristic value of washing hands before meals and after using toilet 1 (rarely) was a risk factor for H. pylori infection. The violin plot showed that the 4 characteristic values of shared household cutlery were distributed in both the positive and negative directions of SHAP values and thus did not show protective or risk factors.


The results of our proposed H. pylori infection prediction model show that H. pylori infection in family members is a risk factor for H. pylori infection, which seems to be the consensus in the field of H. pylori epidemiology. Infection can be transmitted among family members due to diet, intimate contact, and other reasons after H. pylori infection. Therefore, family prevention is very important, and attention should be given to implementation of separate meals and tableware disinfection. In this study, family tableware sharing ranked fifth among all the factors included in SHAP feature analysis, but there was no risk factor or protective factor for H. pylori infection in the violin chart. We observed that in the original data, most patients shared eating utensils every day regardless of whether they were infected with H. pylori (H. pylori positive: 72.99%; H. pylori negative: 59.22%), which can be related to the traditional eating habits of China. Only a small number of patients practiced the implementation of separate meals, that is, they rarely shared tableware with their families (H. pylori positive: 14.22%; H. pylori negative: 15.29%), which may have caused SHAP to fail to judge the predicted direction of different eigenvalues of this feature. Rural residence was found to be a risk factor for H. pylori infection, and urban residence, a protective factor for H. pylori infection, which is consistent with the results of an epidemiological study of H. pylori in eastern Sudan [8], which found that rural household registration is a sociological factor related to H. pylori infection. In recent years, a number of studies [31–33] have shown that the infection rate of H. pylori in rural areas is higher than that in urban areas. This can be due to the low knowledge of H. pylori in rural and economically underdeveloped areas and poor living hygiene conditions during childhood [34]. Some studies believe that the reason for the high infection rate in rural areas is related to large family size [33]; however, in the present study, the number of family members was not included in the 2 models when screening characteristics; that is, this feature had a low correlation with H. pylori infection in this study. We found that the characteristic value of 1 (rarely) in the characteristics of hand washing before meals and after toiletry was a risk factor for H. pylori infection, which could be related to the transmission route of H. pylori, which infects the host through fecal-oral transmission; Abebaw et al [35] came to a similar conclusion. SHAP analysis also showed that non-atrophic gastritis was a risk factor for H. pylori. However, most current studies have shown that infection with H. pylori is a risk factor for chronic gastritis. H. pylori urease can decompose urea to produce ammonia and neutralize the acidic environment, which enables H. pylori to survive in the stomach. The flagella of H. pylori use their spiral shape to enter the gastric mucosa and cause gastrin disorder and decrease the hydrophobicity of the gastric mucosa [36]. H. pylori releases vacuolar cytotoxin A and cytotoxin-associated gene antigen [37], leading to vacuolization, apoptosis, and inflammation and finally leading to the occurrence of chronic gastritis. It seems that H. pylori infection causes chronic gastritis and other gastrointestinal diseases, but whether patients with non-atrophic gastritis are more likely to colonize due to the inflammatory lesions of the gastric mucosa and further aggravate the process of non-atrophic gastritis is rarely studied. SHAP analysis is only a tool for model interpretation, but it cannot determine the causal relationship between the two. Whether non-atrophic H. pylori is a risk factor for H. pylori infection needs to be further studied. It seems that the lack of new protective and risk factors obtained in the result may be the reason for the limited number of included factors and the focus on the top 5 factors. The influence of the factors after fifth place is also shown in the scatter plot, where some new information can be obtained. Future development in the fields of doctor-patient communication and intelligent program information collection may overcome this problem.

This study was a prospective study that accurately and comprehensively conducted inclusion and exclusion and collected risk factor data. Moreover, Xuzhou is at the border of 4 provinces, and some patients came from surrounding provinces and cities. The results of this study can represent the risk factors for H. pylori infection in Xuzhou and surrounding areas to a certain extent. However, it is very difficult to validate the performance of the model in different subpopulations and other healthcare settings. Because this study was conducted in a hospital, the infection rate of H. pylori (62.33%) may have been higher than that in the social population. There may be some limitations in the investigation of risk factors; however, we used SMOTE to balance data to try to avoid the influence of imbalanced data on the model. To reduce the complexity of the model and improve the interpretation of the model, 4 feature selection methods were integrated to screen the data to obtain 2 data subsets, part A and part B. Classical machine learning methods were used on these 2 datasets to train and tune parameters, and the performance of the different models was compared. Innovating feature selection methods and improving machine learning algorithms can be the directions of optimizing this research. Most of the performance indexes of part B were higher than those of part A, which may be due to information loss caused by too few features included in part A. In addition to precision (80.52%), the accuracy, recall, F1 score, and AUC value of our proposed model were the highest, at 78.08%, 74.27%, 77.27%, and 0.861, respectively. We also noticed that the precision index values of support vector machine, random forest, and naive Bayes models were higher, and these models had higher accuracy in predicting positive H. pylori cases, but may not perform well in negative H. pylori cases. The AUC value could reflect the comprehensive ability of the model to classify positive and negative cases; therefore, the AUC value was not as good as the Xgboost model. Coincidentally, Tran et al [30] also used the XGboost method to obtain the optimal model for clinical prediction, which may have been caused by the characteristics of the clinical data and advantages of the XGboost model. Therefore, this model was selected to use SHAP to evaluate the importance of features. SHAP can show the direction of contribution to the predicted results; however, there may be some limitations in the interpretation of the model, such as the absence of protective or risk factors in the characteristics of shared cutlery.


Most epidemiological studies of H. pylori use traditional models, such as logistic regression. Machine learning has been an emerging clinical prediction method in recent years. In this study, we used patient information from the First People’s Hospital of Xuzhou to establish a database and propose a prediction model for H. pylori infection and analyze the risk factors. The model was shown to have the ability to deal with nonlinear relationships and had higher accuracy, stronger flexibility, less overfitting, and more efficient learning ability than the traditional logistic regression model. It outperformed several other classical machine learning models in terms of performance. Through the interpretation of this model, several risk factors and protective factors of H. pylori were identified, which can provide a scientific basis for identifying the population susceptible to H. pylori and preventing H. pylori infection. Introducing some immune indicators and biochemical indicators into the model features and creating new machine learning methods to improve the prediction performance and accuracy of the model can be directions taken to optimize the current research on the prediction model of H. pylori infection and of this study. At this stage, we believe that machine learning models are supportive rather than a substitute in clinical decision making.

There are still many challenges for machine learning methods in the field of clinical prediction. The first is model validation, which considers whether the machine learning model is reliable and valid in the real clinical environment, to avoid inappropriate treatments and overuse of antibiotics. The second is model interpretability, which is how to interpret the prediction results of machine learning models to increase the trust of the results and promote clinical application. Finally, there is the practical application of the model, such as the use of mobile devices and apps to provide personalized H. pylori infection risk prediction and relevant recommendations.


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Medical Science Monitor eISSN: 1643-3750
Medical Science Monitor eISSN: 1643-3750