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First-Ever Artificial Intelligence Software Uses Routine Blood Tests to Help Labs Rule Out COVID-19

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 15 Dec 2020
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Hospital-based laboratories and doctors at the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic might soon add artificial intelligence to their testing toolkit to help rule out the possibility of infection from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

A recent study of Biocogniv Inc’s (South Burlington, VT, USA) new AI-COVID software has found it to be highly accurate in predicting the probability of COVID-19 infection using routine blood tests, which can help hospitals reduce the number of patients referred for scarce PCR testing.

PCR testing is the current standard diagnostic for COVID-19, and requires specific sampling, like a nasal swab, and specialized laboratory equipment to run. Complete Blood Count and Complete Metabolic Panels are common laboratory tests ordered by emergency departments and have a rapid turnaround time. These tests provide insight into the immune system, electrolytes, kidney, and liver.

The researchers were able to train a model that analyzes changes in these routine tests and assigns a probability of the patient being COVID-19 negative with high accuracy. The AI-COVID model was validated on real world data from Cedars-Sinai as well as on data from geographically and demographically diverse patient encounters from 22 US hospitals, achieving an area under the curve (or AUC) of 0.91 out of 1.00.

“This enables the model to achieve a high sensitivity of 95% while maintaining moderate specificity of 49%, which is very similar to the performance of other commonly used rule-out tests,” says Biocogniv Chief Scientific Officer George Hauser, MD, a pathologist.
A secondary benefit of laboratories incorporating AI-COVID might be reduced time for traditional PCR results.

“AI-COVID takes seconds to generate its informative result once these blood tests return, which can then be incorporated by the laboratory into its own test interpretation,” says Jennifer Joe, MD, an emergency physician in Boston, Mass. and Biocogniv’s Chief Medical Officer. “In an efficient emergency department that prioritizes these routine blood tests, the door-to-result time could be under an hour. With the help of AI-COVID, laboratories might relieve some of the testing bottleneck by helping providers better allocate rapid PCR testing for patients who really need it.”

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