Can AI, robotics help ID asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19?

Researchers in Israel are working to develop a new AI-powered COVID-19 test—and they think it could be especially effective at detecting individuals who carry the virus without showing any symptoms.

“In light of the mounting evidence of the importance of asymptomatic carriers in spreading COVID-19, it is critical to locate these carriers as quickly as possible, to isolate them and thus slow the infection rate in high-risk groups,” Tomer Hertz, PhD, of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Genetics, said in a statement. “We believe that our method will help do so by dramatically speeding up testing.”

According to team behind this project, its new test—currently being conducted by a laboratory robot—could potentially be eight times faster than other methods. One reason for the fast speeds is thought to be the group’s decision to separate samples into different pools.

“The planning and constructing of the pools and the way we mix the individual samples enables us to identify and follow up with those found positive for COVID-19 after far fewer tests than the norm,” Noam Shentel, PhD, Open University of Israel, said in the same statement.

The researchers are now aiming to test their proposed method at Israel’s Soroka Medical Center and start identifying asymptomatic carriers as quickly as possible. They hope to be using their findings to test the public “in the near future.”