Role of AI soars in tackling Covid-19 pandemic

Mamuni Das New Delhi | Updated on March 29, 2020 Published on March 29, 2020

CoRover brings in an AI doctor


For the first time in a pandemic, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is playing a role like never before in areas ranging from diagnosing risk to doubt-clearing, from delivery of services to drug discovery in tackling the Covid-19 outbreak.

While BlueDoT, a Canadian health monitoring firm that crunches flight data and news reports using AI, is being credited by international reports to be the first to warn its clients of an impending outbreak on December 31, beating countries and international developmental agencies, the Indian tech space too is buzzing with coronavirus cracking activities.

From doubt-clearing to delivery of services

CoRover, a start-up in the AI space that has earlier developed chatbots for railways ticketing platform, has now created a “video-bot” by collaborating with a doctor from Fortis Healthcare. In this platform, a real doctor from Fortis Healthcare — not a cartoon or an invisible knowledge bank — will take questions from people about Covid-19.

Apollo Hospitals has come up with a risk assessment scanner for Covid-19, which is available in six languages and guides people about the potential risk of having the virus. The Jaipur-based Sawai Man Singh Hospital is trying out a robot, made by robot maker Club First, to serve food and medicines to patients to lower the exposure of health workers to coronavirus patients.

“This is the first time in healthcare that Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Natural Language Processing are being used to create a Virtual Conversational AI platform, which assists anyone to be able to interact with doctors and have their queries answered unlike other search engines, which do not guarantee the authenticity of information,” CoRover’s Ankush Sabharwal claimed, while talking of its video-bot, which is likely to be launched soon.

Sabharwal told BusinessLine that answers to numerous questions have been recorded by Pratik Yashavant Patil, a doctor from Fortis Healthcare. In his AI avatar, Doctor Patil will bust myths, chat with you and will probably have answers to a lot of your questions.

Drugs efficacy and busting fake info

Another start-up, Innoplexus AG, headquartered in Germany but founded by Indians, is claiming that its AI-enabled drug discovery platform is helping to arrive at combinations of existing drugs that may prove more efficacious in treating Covid-19 cases.

Its AI platform, after scanning the ‘entire universe of Covid-related data’ has thrown up results to show that Hydroxycholoroquine or Chroloquine, an anti-malaria drug that is being prescribed as a prophylactic for coronavirus under many protocols works more effectively with some other existing drugs than when it is used alone, the company claims.

“Our analysis shows that Chloroquine works more effectively in combination with Pegasys (a drug used to treat Hepatitis C] or Tocilizumab, (a rheumatoid arthritis drug) or Remdesivir (yet to be approved antiviral drug for Ebola) or Clarithromycin (an antibiotic). We are hoping to work with drug regulators and partners to test these in pre-clinical and clinical trials,” said Gunjan Bhardwaj, CEO, Innoplexus.

To be sure, hundreds of clinical trials are currently under way with several cocktails of medicines for Covid-19 across the world, and some of these drugs were part of trials held in China and Taiwan. The World Health Organization (WHO) itself is monitoring a global mega clinical trial for testing drugs for Covid-19 called ‘solidarity’, which India decided to join on Friday.

Published on March 29, 2020

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