Experts in Scotland have developed groundbreaking Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology, that is capable of accurately diagnosing COVID-19 in just a few minutes, which is even quicker than a PCR test. It is hoped that the new AI-based technology can relieve pressure on health systems, particularly in countries where PCR tests are difficult.
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The AI-based technology used for Covid detection
The AI-based technology uses X-rays to compare scans to a database of around 3,000 images, belonging to patients with COVID- 19, healthy individuals and people with viral pneumonia. It then uses an AI process, an algorithm typically used to analyse visual imagery, to make a diagnosis regarding Covid detection.
Professor Naeem Ramzan, Director of the Affective and Human Computing for SMART Environments Research Centre at UWS, who led the three-person team behind the project, said; “There has long been a need for a quick and reliable tool that can detect Covid-19, and this has become even more true with the upswing of the Omicron variant.” He further added; “Several countries are unable to carry out large numbers of Covid tests because of limited diagnosis tools, but this technique utilises easily accessible technology to quickly detect the virus.”
The technology cannot fully replace the PCR testing
According to the university, the initial symptoms does not appear at first in the X-rays. Hence, the technology cannot fully replace PCR tests. The team now plans to expand the study, incorporating a greater database of X-ray images acquired by different models of X-ray machines, to evaluate the suitability of the approach in a clinical setting.
At present, the COVID-19 infection can be detected by two tests — the RT-PCR and the antigen. In the RT-PCR test (polymerase chain reaction), the genetic material from the virus is detected. This is currently considered the gold standard for checking the infection. The antigen test detects the proteins on the surface of the virus. These tests take 15-30 minutes but are not considered to be very accurate.