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AI and COVID 19

As we experience the coronavirus pandemic, we have an influential role to play for mitigating the virus’s spread. At an individual level, social distancing goes a long way in blocking potential routes for infection spread. Added to that, if you wash your hands regularly and wear a mask whenever you’re in public, you’re doing your part to keep the coronavirus at bay!

COVID 19 - the coronavirus

Businesses also have a vital role to play here, and they’re exploring avenues to help fight this battle. Essential services are operating around the clock to ensure their inventories are full. Governments have also roped in private firms to help with medical resources. For example, the Trump Administration issued an order under the Defense Production Act to make General Motors manufacture surgical masks at scale. 

Along with these measures, companies that have a working knowledge of Artificial Intelligence are identifying coronavirus-relevant use cases and developing intelligent models. As an emerging technology, industries are slowly adopting AI. With the hopes of mitigating the spread or finding a cure to COVID-19, here’s how AI can be used for tackling it:

Vaccine development

Historically, vaccine development has been an effective strategy for tackling contagious diseases. This is why pathologists are researching numerous relevant antigens and immunogens for tackling COVID 19. The AI strategy for vaccine identification is two-fold: 

  • Suggesting vaccine components by understanding viral protein structures
  • Scouring through medical research papers at a pace faster than medical professionals

Pathologists are researching nucleic acid vaccines (one of the three types of vaccines, others being whole-pathogen vaccines and subunit vaccines) as these are the ones relevant to crippling the coronavirus. AI helps pathologists understand a variety of molecule structures, and their ability to fold the coronavirus (the action that will render the virus ineffective).

COVID 19 vaccine development

Korea-based Deargen created a deep-learning model that can employ simplified chemical sequences that can predict a molecule’s chances of disabling the coronavirus. Google’s DeepMind is using Artificial Intelligence models to study properties of the novel virus, which includes understanding the protein structures associated with SARS-CoV-2. 

Chatbots for diagnoses 

Chatbots help companies save time and resources. As the coronavirus spreads, the world has understood that hospitals are overloaded. And, most countries don’t have the right medical infrastructure to handle numerous patients.

AI in diagnosis using chatbots

Patients can use medical chatbots to perform quick diagnoses. after which it can predict the likelihood of a patient being infected. This ensures that only patients who have a high probability of testing positive end up visiting a hospital. Medical chatbots reduce the load on medical professionals and hospital resources, thus saving lives truly at risk.

Monitoring infection spread

With location data, we can identify infection hotspots across geographies. This can be used to predict the odds of infection spread based on earlier instances. Users report whether they’re positive or negative on an app. And based on that user data, the app can determine which parts of a neighborhood need to be avoided. It can also notify users who have visited hotspots and request them to get tested. Such data will be immensely valuable to governments imposing lockdowns, and it will provide them with the data needed for creating a path to normalcy.

COVID 19 infection spread

South Korea used an app that can locate infected citizens and their local travel history. During a mandatory two-week self-quarantine, the app helped the South Korean government trace infection spread by identifying cases wherein people were at a two meters distance from each other. Using this app helped South Korea flatten the curve, thus exhibiting how this battle is one that can be won. 

Israel has created a survey reading AI that takes advantage of user-reported data for tackling the COVID 19 spread. Using this, populations can be warned about risky locations, and users at a higher risk of contamination can avoid infection. 

Conclusion

The world is now on red alert and everyone is battling this pandemic together. Social distancing has proven to be the single most effective tool we have at our disposal. People have been asked (in many cases forced by law) to wear masks and maintain physical distance while in public. For the ones already infected, hospitals are doing their best to ensure the right resources such as hospital beds and ventilators are available.

While all this is good, we still have the problem of a shortage of medical professionals, nurses, and hospital resources. Also, we don’t fully understand this virus and a vaccine isn’t exactly close to being ready for usage. Here’s where we’ve got Artificial Intelligence at our disposal. 

AI can speed up human processes and allow us to quickly reach our process’ finish line. By using AI for vaccine creation, pathologists can locate and develop a suitable vaccine faster for tackling COVID 19. Chatbots can reduce the load on doctors and ensure multiple patients are tested. And, a combination of location and user data can help the public and governments understand what the situation surrounding infection spread looks like.

Coupled with human intelligence, AI has the potential to get us out of this pandemic sooner rather than later. The answer lies in the efficiency of AI implementation.