UBC Okanagan Developing Alternative COVID-19 Tests for Third World Countries


Rapid testing and the use of PCR tests may be free or readily available to Canadians to test for COVID-19, but other countries do not.

Researchers at UBC Okanagan say rapid tests can be limited and very expensive in third world countries, which is why they are using artificial intelligence to find another method of testing for the virus.

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Dr Mohamed Shehata, associate professor of computer science at UBCO, and his team have developed ‘CORONA-Net’, software that can quickly and easily detect COVID-19 using chest x-ray images.

“X-ray machines already exist in these countries because it is part of normal medical practice. X-rays are available and they are very inexpensive. Radiography is therefore considered a reliable and precise alternative method, sometimes even more than the PCR test, ”explains Dr Shehata.

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Although x-rays are already available in other countries to detect COVID-19, it takes time for the image to be evaluated by a doctor and for the infection to be detected, which can lead to further spread. virus. However, using ‘CORONA-Net’, the artificial intelligence system can report suspected cases to be accelerated.

“The software that we developed, we wanted to have 100% detection of COVID-19. The overall accuracy was around 95%, but our main goal was not to miss anything, even if it later turns out not to be COVID-19. The important thing with this software is that every time it gets the images it can learn and increase its accuracy, ”says Dr Shehata.

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Dr Shehata adds that the PCR method is unable to detect whether someone has already had the virus, which x-ray imaging is able to do.

“According to the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO), X-ray imaging is an effective method of detecting whether people have been affected or have recovered from the virus.”

Dr Shehata is in talks with other countries to use ‘CORONA-Net’ to make rapid tests more widely available.

The research paper was published in the Imaging log.


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