This new technology diagnoses COVID-19 ‘in minutes’

Credit: University of the West of Scotland

In a new study from the University of the West of Scotland, researchers found an artificial intelligence (AI) technology is capable of accurately diagnosing COVID-19 in just a few minutes.

The ground-breaking programme is able to detect the virus far more quickly than a PCR test which typically takes around 2-hours.

It is hoped that the technology can eventually be used to help relieve strain on hard-pressed Accident and Emergency departments, particularly in countries where PCR tests are not readily available.

The state-of-the-art technique utilises X-ray technology, comparing scans to a database of around 3000 images, belonging to patients with COVID-19, healthy individuals and people with viral pneumonia.

It then uses an AI process known as deep convolutional neural network, an algorithm typically used to analyse visual imagery, to make a diagnosis.

During an extensive testing phase, the technique proved to be more than 98 percent accurate.

The team says 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.

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.

COVID-19 symptoms are not visible in X-rays during the early stages of infection, so it is important to note that the technology cannot fully replace PCR tests.

However, it can still play an important role in curtailing the viruses spread especially when PCR tests are not readily available.

It could prove to be crucial, and potentially life-saving, when diagnosing severe cases of the virus, helping determine what treatment may be required.

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.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about blood sugar history that could predict your risk of severe COVID-19, and new antibody treatment for COVID-19.

For more information about health, please see recent studies about a familiar drug that could help treat COVID-19, and results showing a new COVID-19 drug for people with diabetes.

The study is published in Sensors. One author of the study is Professor Naeem Ramzan.

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