February 24, 2024
How AI could change the healthcare landscape for future pandemics


According to a new study published in Nature, a new AI tool can predict new viral variants even before they emerge. The tool, EVscape, developed by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of Oxford, can accurately predict viral variants of COVID-19, as well as other viruses such as influenza and HIV.

The study showed that if the AI ​​tool had been used early in the COVID-19 pandemic, it would have identified the most frequent and worrisome variants of COVID-19. EVEscape can revolutionize the way health professionals, policymakers, government officials, and educators prepare for the next pandemic, and here’s why.

develop effective vaccines

Vaccines have been vital and life-saving in combating COVID-19. Globally, COVID-19 vaccines alone saved at least 14.4 million lives in a year, according to research from the Journal of Pediatrics and Child Health.

Creating vaccines is no easy task, and it requires knowledge of the viral variants most likely to exist and those most likely to cause infection among the general population. For example, the new updated COVID-19 vaccine Omicron targets the XBB.1.5 variant, as it was considered the dominant strain at the time of vaccine administration.

If AI can reliably predict the viral variants that are most likely to exist and infect a population, researchers can more efficiently develop vaccines faster. The end result will be that millions of lives will be saved by better preparedness for the next major global pandemic.

Treatment tailored to specific patients

Several different viral variants of COVID-19 have emerged over the years, resulting in infections with similar and different symptoms. Some patients were infected with the Delta variant, while others showed symptoms of the Omicron family variant.

Imagine a scenario where an AI tool could predict the type of virus that individuals become infected with, which would then allow researchers and pharmacists to develop drugs and treatments specifically tailored to those with the most common symptoms. Can inspire, which have the most potential. This may become a reality in the near future with the emergence of AI tools like EVscape.

clear message to the public

With the emergence of new viral variants, there are often concerns about how contagious the variant is and how much potential the variant has to cause severe disease. This was also the case with the Omicron BA.2.86 variant when it started surfacing in August.

At the time, researchers and virologists were still trying to figure out how contagious the variant was to the general public in the US.

Future AI tools may better help understand which variants are most likely to occur by understanding structural and biological information about variants. If tools like EVscape can help with this, messaging to the public could provide clear information about the potential dangers of viral variants. When teachers and media workers communicate important information about the virus it can provide greater clarity and reduce the general public’s anxiety.

restore public confidence

AI tools like EVscape are able to detect and monitor viral mutations and variants in real time, helping public health researchers and officials respond to potential threats. This proactive approach can build confidence among the general public regarding the pandemic response.

Additionally, because these AI tools will be instrumental in helping to develop vaccines and treatments more quickly, the general public may see a faster response to potential threats which could translate into increased confidence and trust in healthcare workers.

According to research from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, trust in the COVID-19 vaccine had a strong correlation with vaccine acceptance. To achieve better vaccination rates, government and healthcare leaders must foster trust among the public, and AI can be a means of earning that trust.

The COVID-19 pandemic showed us all that embracing new challenges has become the norm. The ability of AI to predict viral variants will be a game-changer that will allow us to address the challenges posed by global pandemics in the future. Adopting this technology could be the key to surviving the next big pandemic.

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