How AI Is Helping to Battle COVID-19?

The world has come to a standstill with the near-exponential escalation of coronavirus pandemic. According to the World Health Organization, Coronavirus disease (COVID -19) is an infectious disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2). First reported in China on 31 December 2019, the dread of the COVID-19 has spread across the globe quickly. As of now, the total number of COVID-19 infections has crossed one million globally, with 51,000 fatalities and 2,10,000 recoveries. As the numbers keep on rising exponentially, world leaders have shut down their countries and are asking their citizens to stay at home. In fact, all the major cities have entered into hibernation as the public spaces remain deserted. Classrooms, landmarks, bars, shops, clubs and restaurants remain closed while train tracks, airports and roads appear eerily empty. Even though healthcare experts recommend social distancing and personal hygiene to stay safe from the pandemic, it can't be considered as a permanent solution to tackle the present situation. What we need is to rely on advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), big data and genetic technology to track and fight this pandemic.

Forecast the Spread of Virus

Artificial Intelligence can warn us of an upcoming epidemic and how it will spread over time and over space. Machine Learning, one of the most exciting subsets of AI enables humans to ‘teach’ machines by processing huge volumes of data, finding patterns in data and using those patterns to make predictions. In fact, BlueDot, a global AI database company has warned its customers to avoid Wuhan, even US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) issued their public warnings. This AI based system used natural language processing and machine learning to extract data from hundreds and thousands of sources such as foreign news reports, statements of official public health organizations, global airline ticketing data, livestock health reports and population demographics to track, locate and conceptualize infectious disease spread. In future, AI and big data would be used to harvest data from social media platforms to understand how people are talking about the issues online and to track the travel history of affected people.

Drug Discovery and Development

Artificial Intelligence is poised to have a transformative impact on healthcare and its applications span from drug delivery to diagnostics, consumer health and more. Leveraging the power of deep learning, machine learning and natural language processing facilitates the healthcare industry to prevent, diagnose and treat ailments successfully. AI’s ability to process vast and complicated information, such as pathology data, in the shortest amount of time proves beneficial in speeding up the diagnosis process and treatment afterwards. Greater proficiency and higher accuracy levels of AI technology helps to identify a deep pattern, which can be a critical point in determining the treatment plan for a patient. For instance, Longevity Vision Fund’s portfolio company Insilico Medicine used its AI system to identify thousands of molecules for potential medications for COVID-19 in just four days. Furthermore, the company published its updated findings openly so that all the researchers around the world can access the findings and contribute towards combating the pandemic effectively. The speed, scalability and accuracy rendered by artificial intelligence systems helps in scanning through existing drugs and checking whether it could be reused for treating the coronavirus infections. It is also poised to help in designing and developing antibodies and vaccines for COVID-19 rapidly thus fighting both the current and future outbreaks.

Drones and Robots for Assistance

Artificial intelligence could simply make our lives easier during this crisis by offering assistance. As we all know, social distancing is a non-pharmaceutical infection prevention and control method to stay safe from COVID-19. Drones and robots, based on AI technologies were used to complete many tasks without human intervention during the dreaded crisis. Drones were used to patrol the public spaces to ensure people are taking proper precautions and staying in compliance to the quarantine mandates. Keeping people out of harm’s way, drones were deployed to conduct thermal imaging, dispatch medical supplies and transport medical samples between hospitals and disease control centres. On the other hand, robots were used to clean and disinfect several areas. And there has been a surging demand for UVD robots to disinfect hospital rooms. Denmark-based UVD Robots makes an autonomous mobile robot that can enter a room and disinfect it with UV-C light, without exposing staffers to potentially harmful radiation. It is one of several companies offering disinfection systems in response to the novel coronavirus. Deploying such automated systems helps in reducing person-to-person contact and reinforces efficient monitoring of the outbreak too.

The threat of COVID-19 is sweeping the globe instilling fear and anxiety among people. However, the development of ground-breaking technologies such as AI and big data along with the cross-collaboration of healthcare leaders, scientists and researchers gives us a ray of hope in detecting, understanding and stopping the spread of COVID-19.

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