The rapid spread of COVID-19 poses a global threat in an increasingly interconnected world. It has already disrupted the supply chains of 94% of Fortune 1000 companies1. As the virus continues to have significant human and economic impact, it is crucial to rapidly combat its spread through tracking and preventive measures, even as researchers work on discovering a possible vaccination or cure.
Underpinned by data science and genetic applied science, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help understand the cause of the disease while enabling better management and prevention. Here are 4 ways in which AI technologies can help fight Coronavirus.
An AI model can leverage data from health organizations, commercial flights, livestock health reports, climate and news reports to correlate data points, focusing on the movement patterns of people affected by the virus. Combined with human expertise in analyzing and interpreting the data, AI can predict the start of an epidemic as well its spread. For instance, natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML) algorithms can help scan data for early signs of the COVID-19 pandemic. As more and more medical information becomes digitized, it can be leveraged to make accurate predictions while ensuring data privacy and cost optimization. However, predicting patterns and potential outbreak in non-human host carriers can be a challenge. The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies2 classifies species that are reservoirs of human diseases and uses AI in animal surveillance to predict likely outbreak sites in future.
Infections such as the Coronavirus can be detected in large scale through computer vision algorithms. This enables frontline healthcare workers to detect and monitor the disease while efficiently managing patient volumes. For instance, an AI system using cameras equipped with computer vision and infrared sensors can measure people’s temperatures in public areas. Such a system can screen up to 200 people per minute and flag anyone who has a temperature above 37.3 degrees. Similarly,AI systems that take advantage of a deep learning algorithm based on 45,000 anonymized CT scans3 can differentiate between COVID-19 and ordinary viral pneumonia.
Right now, the only way to prevent the spread of the novel Coronavirus is to reduce contact with infected patients. Automating interactions and procedures with medical staff will help perform contactless diagnosis while minimizing the risk of cross-infection. Robots can check people for fever and deliver food and medicines to patients, and even disinfect rooms, reducing the need for nurses’ presence. For instance, AI can assist ambulances to speed through traffic while reducing time to provide medical assistance. In fact, doctors can take advantage of robots to communicate with patients remotely to minimize exposure with infected people. AI can also help analyze sewage and help map the pandemic through an early indicator of disease spread before people seek care. AI can also tackle the spread of inaccurate and fake news by moderating information and increasing accuracy.
Developing a vaccine against the Coronavirus is critical to contain its spread. But developing new drugs and medicine is a lengthy and costly process.
Deep learning is the key in finding new information about the structure of proteins associated with Coronavirus for developing the vaccine formula. ML can be leveraged to determine the protein structures that can probably mask the virus from seeking healthy human cells4. Similarly, predictive ML capabilities can identify compounds that can effectively block the cellular pathway that allow the virus to find its way into the cells5.
AI systems can also successfully identify thousands of molecules for potential medications and use simplified chemical sequences to predict the strength of a molecule to bind to a target protein. In a similar manner, AI can accelerate drug discovery.
A resilient future with AI
AI and data-driven approaches can help track and contain the spread of the Coronavirus faster and also provide deep insights on the epidemic, helping in the process of finding a cure. These truly herald the advent of contact-less diagnostics in healthcare sector. Organizations that use AI to their advantage will not only be able to accelerate the drug discovery process but also be resilient to face any such future outbreak.
Head of Artificial Intelligence at Wipro
Anand is an AI evangelist who is passionate about applying technology to solve enterprise problems and assisting Wipro’s global customers to scale their AI adoption for transforming their products & services. He works closely with startups, alliance partners & academia building an overarching AI ecosystem.