Coronavirus: Artificial intelligence tool could help diagnose disease 'within weeks'

Rob Waugh
·3-min read
Corona virus
Could artificial intelligence help to defeat the coronavirus? (Getty)

An artificial intelligence tool could soon analyse X-ray images of coronavirus patients’ lungs to help doctors diagnose people more rapidly, its creators have announced.

Zegami, an Oxford University data visualisation spin-off, has said that being able to use AI to analyse X-rays of infected lungs could even lead to more effective treatments.

The company said that its software could be usable as a diagnostic tool “within weeks”, helping doctors to differentiate between COVID-19 cases and other lung diseases such as bacterial pneumonia.

Zegami has written to the NHS asking for access to images of lung X-rays, the company has said.

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Roger Noble, CEO and founder of Zegami, said: “COVID-19 is a huge challenge, and technology should play a key role in defeating it.

“We believe the model we have developed cannot only be used to help identify cases of coronavirus more quickly, with the right visuals and information loaded on to our platform and using data visualisation and AI tools, we can help identify potential outcomes for patients by comparing their cases with former patients who had similar conditions and learning what happened to them.”

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The company is currently working with a database of COVID-19 x-rays from the GitHub data initiative, which was launched by Joseph Paul Cohen, a postdoctoral fellow from research institute Mila at University of Montreal.

Noble said: “To complete our project we need more data and visuals of COVID-19 x-rays and the treatments used for these case and their eventual outcomes, so we have written to the NHS asking if they would like to work with us on this project, and to see if they can provide the visuals and data we need.

“The model we develop could not only help our amazing NHS staff to make more informed decisions and potentially save lives, it could be shared around the world and play a role in helping to defeat COVID-19 on a global scale.”

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In February, tech companies including Google, Facebook and Microsoft joined forces to release an unprecedented statement on coronavirus – in the battle against online misinformation.

The statement promised that the tech giants were working together, “jointly combating fraud and misinformation about the virus”.

The statement was released online, and was signed by Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube.

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The joint statement said: “We are working closely together on COVID-19 response efforts. We’re helping millions of people stay connected while also, elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world.

“We invite other companies to join us as we work to keep our communities healthy and safe.”

Facebook said last month that it plans to award $100 million in cash grants and ad credits for up to 30,000 small businesses in over 30 countries, in a move aimed to address the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

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