AI screening test can rule out Covid-19 diagnosis ‘within an hour’

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Ai Screening Test Can Rule Out Covid-19 Diagnosis ‘Within An Hour’ Ai Screening Test Can Rule Out Covid-19 Diagnosis ‘Within An Hour’
The Department of Health confirmed there were 69 people in hospital with Covid-19 on Monday, 26 of whom were in ICU. © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Nilima Marshall, PA Science Reporter

A coronavirus screening test based on artificial intelligence (AI) is able to rule out a Covid-19 diagnosis within an hour, according to the scientists who developed the technology.

The test, which uses clinical information routinely available within the first hour of arriving at a hospital, was created by infectious disease and machine learning experts at the University of Oxford.

According to the team, it was able to accurately predict the Covid-19 status of 92.3% of patients coming to emergency departments at two UK hospitals – the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford and the Horton General Hospital in Banbury – during a two-week test period.

The researchers said their screening technology, known as the CURIAL AI test, was also able to correctly rule out Covid-19 infection 97.6% of the time.

The team believe their findings, published in journal The Lancet Digital Health, could help manage patient flow at hospitals and rapidly identify those who may potentially risk spreading the disease.

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Dr Andrew Soltan, a researcher at Oxford University’s Radcliffe Department of Medicine, who led the research, said: “The CURIAL AI test offers clinical teams the potential to rapidly and confidently rule out a diagnosis of Covid-19 for a large majority of the patients who do not have the infection, while identifying patients at higher risk of testing positive.

“The higher-risk patients can then be cared for in clinical areas with additional infection-control precautions while swab test results are awaited.”

The screening tool was developed using routine healthcare data from electronic records for 115,394 patients and 72,310 admissions.

Compared to the standard swab test, which takes around 24 hours to deliver results, the researchers said their AI tool “offers rapid results”.

Dr Soltan said: “The turnaround time for Covid-19 swabs has come down since the start of the pandemic.

“However, until we have confirmation that patients are negative we must take additional precautions for patients with coronavirus symptoms, which are very common as we head in to winter.

“Patients screened by the AI test as low-risk could benefit from reduced delays to their care if we know sooner that they do not have Covid-19.

“A strength of our AI test is that it fits within the existing clinical care pathway and works with existing lab equipment.

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“This means scaling it up will be relatively fast and cheap.”

Dr Ravi Pattanshetty, an A&E consultant at the John Radcliffe Hospital, said: “The John Radcliffe Emergency Department will be conducting prospective validation of this AI tool in the coming months.

“We will be mainly using it to triage patients at the front door to help the flow of patients into various designated areas.

“We are very excited at the prospect of being able to use a tool which, should it prove successful, will help hospitals make more informed and rapid decisions with regards to patient flow.”

The researchers said they are currently in the process of validating another version of their AI test that uses near-patient blood tests that can be performed in 10 minutes.

They say this could reduce the time the AI needs to exclude coronavirus infection from one hour to only minutes.

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