How Artificial Intelligence is Combating the Coronavirus

Source: Artificial Intelligence on Medium

How Artificial Intelligence is Combating the Coronavirus

The first organization that identified the outbreak of the coronavirus was not the World Health Organization or any other large epidemiological institution, it was a company with, as of today, under 50 employees. The company, named BlueDot, used advanced A.I algorithms for automatic surveillance of the world for potential signs of infectious disease to find the first cases of coronavirus in Wuhan.

Representation of the BlueDot platform. Further information at this link: https://bluedot.global/

In any epidemic, identifying and containing the threat as early as possible is crucial so that less are infected than need be and to find procedures for treatments where necessary.

Although BlueDot’s algorithm could not have been successful without an excellent team of epidemiologists and researchers trained to identify threats appropriately, A.I like these are changing the landscape for identifying, controlling, treating and preventing infectious disease.

gif representation of the outbreak into 2020. src: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:COVID-19-outbreak-timeline.gif

Artificial Intelligence in Monitoring Disease Spread

Above is a representation of the spread of the virus. Not only is A.I playing a crucial role in identifying these outbreaks, the virus is being carefully tracked using novel A.I systems as well. Artificial intelligence researchers are applying techniques to social media, news reports, public health channels and other data for signs that the disease may be spreading elsewhere. Just with any spread of disease, novel cases become more difficult as the scope increases. As the disease emerges in other countries, tracking efforts need to increase to provide services for these infected individuals. Leading the efforts in innovation at Harvard Medical school is John Brownstein. He and his colleagues are using natural language processing to extract key information regarding symptoms that are consistent with research into the virus. This arises from collaborating with other Harvard medical doctors across many social media platforms, to effectively predict where the spread is occurring and how it is affecting those individuals.

From John Hopkins University, link to this visualization is below.

Many less developed nations of the world have limited access to the internet. Data in these poor countries is largely inaccessible and countries like these are highly susceptible to disease outbreaks given poor systematic health infrastructure, lack of monetary funds for resources and the unhygienic conditions in which these individuals live. This is deeply problematic for monitoring disease spread in the methods used above due to a lack of good data. That is why just as techniques used in online information assessment is efficient and resourceful, models from public health field researchers in these nations is also vital to tracking disease spread. This is precisely where global institutions like the World Health Organization shine. They use statistical techniques to predict where the spread may occur and how to allocate resources accordingly.

Having these institutions effectively collaborating among one another, while using advanced A.I techniques is providing crucial aid to combating this potential pandemic.

I invite you all to take a look at John Hopkins University’s detailed and interactive data visualization of the spread of this disease in the link under the image.

https://gisanddata.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/bda7594740fd40299423467b48e9ecf6

Artificial Intelligence in Developing Treatments and Vaccines

Monitoring spread is important for providing resources and minimizing spread without effectively reducing national economies, however, we also require that the resources given for aid be effective.

Artificial intelligence is fighting to develop vaccines against the coronavirus. At the forefront is a company called Exscientia. Oxfords own start-up run by Andrew Hopkins estimated that given their recent advancements in Artificial Intelligence, they can have new treatments from conception to clinical testing in as little as 18 to 24 months, thanks to AI. This is very quickly in the world of pharmaceuticals and disease treatments. The process involves drug designers which help train the algorithms to strategies for searching for compounds. AI is used to find entirely new molecules that might be capable of treating these illnesses. Exscientia has a proven track record in this space. They designed a new compound for treating obsessive-compulsive disorder that’s ready to be tested in the lab within a year of the initial research phase. That’s about 5x faster than average, according to the company.

Cambridge based Healx is fighting the good fight using an approach to find existing drugs to that could be potentially used to combat the virus once enough data is accessible. They built an algorithm that parses through tremendous amounts of biomedical journals and databases to suggest potential treatments.

In China, hospitals are using AI-based software from a company called Infervision to scan through CT images of patients’ lungs to look for signs of Covid-19, the infection caused by the coronavirus. This enables doctors and medical professionals to quickly and adequately attend to a patient needs while reducing any extensive diagnostic processes.

Efforts are being made across the globe and what is required is a lot of data and incredible talent to help these companies build efficient algorithms to treat this disease. It may be helpful for these companies for you to get onto social media platforms and have open communication if you are anyone you know is experience symptoms of the virus.

Indirect Efforts of Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence is also having an indirect effect on the maintenance of the virus by providing technologies that assist in minimizing human to human interaction. Through the use of robotics in hospitals, software for at home work and the online platforms for communications, artificial intelligence and software at large, are reducing potential virus cases. This in due in part by limiting real human interaction while keeping economic activity productive through the use of remote labor.

This allows for individuals to buy and sell resources appropriate to there desires, while maintaining an income. This is also advantageous to public health initiatives since this increases online communication, decreases entry barriers and minimizes person to person disease infections. People are still maintaining communication while minimizing contact.

These indirect and direct efforts as mentioned above are playing a strong role in combating the coronavirus. The hope is that these be effective and that the global spread be minimized, to increase treatment and to restore economic and political stability.

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