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AI and Terahertz Radiation to Help Doctors Fight COVID-19

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A team of researchers is working on developing an artificial intelligence-based terahertz radiation (t-ray) scanning unit to address the limitation of infrared thermal scanner in accurate and early detection of coronavirus patients.

The researchers — Moumita Mukherjee associate dean, Adamas University (Calcutta), and formerly associated with DRDO center, and Dinesh Bhatia, associate professor, biomedical engineering department of the North Eastern Hill University (Nehu), Shillong — and their collaborative research group are currently working on the scanning unit.

Mukherjee and Bhatia said the unique absorption fingerprint of t-ray radiation in lungs and the contrast thermal image of affected and healthy lungs will help doctors and paramedical staff identify such cases at an early stage when the patient is apparently asymptomatic and not showing any virus symptoms.

While Bhatia is helping in the analysis and extraction of biomedical images by incorporating artificial intelligence, Mukherjee is looking after the design and implementation of the device/product.

Bhatia said the t-ray thermography is a potential alternative to thermal infrared scanners and CT imaging for early detection and safe monitoring of COVID-19 patients.

He pointed out that with a very limited supply of COVID-19 test kits in India and the rest of the world, people with mild symptoms are less likely to be tested. “This leaves many people in the dark as to whether cold-like symptoms are just the sniffles, or a mild case of novel coronavirus making them potential source of spreading the contagious virus in society,” Bhatia said.

He pointed out that thermal screening or infrared-based devices have major limitations in accurately identifying asymptomatic individuals carrying the virus and such cases go undetected.

Stating that an alternative is required, Bhatia said that to prevent spread of any infectious communicable disease, early disease diagnosis and monitoring were important not only for prompt implementation of treatment, but also for patient isolation and effective public health surveillance, containment to avoid spread of contagious disease, and ensuring quick medical response.

“To detect the virus at an early stage and help in isolating such individuals by following the principle of social distancing or self-quarantine at their homes for a period of 14 to 20 days may help in preventing spread of this severe communicable disease,” he said.

He said that near patient care (near POC) assays that test for SARS-CoV-2 are currently in the development stage and are awaiting approval by different regulatory agencies.

He explained that the fundamental physics behind the biomedical diagnosis with t-ray depends on the distribution of water content in cell and biomolecules, which could be employed for screening of body organs such as lungs for diagnosing respiratory infections.

According to Bhatia, the application of a terahertz imaging tool in such investigations has not yet been employed by any research group.

Bhatia said the product will be cost-effective, which will allow quick diagnosis with accurate screening and monitoring of mass population.

“Our extensive research is showing a ray of hope in easy identification, followed by safe monitoring of COVID-19 patients worldwide,” he said.


Photonics Spectra
May 2020
GLOSSARY
thermography
The recording of a scanned pattern on a photographic medium, utilizing the infrared radiation naturally emitted by the object, as well as infrared receptors, such as photoelectric cells.
Research & TechnologycoronavirusT-rayterahertzAIinfraredthermalthermographycovid-19 test kits disease diagnosisimagingbiomoleculesterahertz imagingCOVID-19 News

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