BMC to conduct study to assess efficacy of AI-based COVID test

The Mumbai civic body has decided to conduct a study to assess the efficacy of an artificial intelligence (AI)-based technology which claims to detect coronavirus infection within half a minute, a senior official said on Monday.

The 'non-invasive voice sample analysis' claims to detect the viral infection by analysing sound waves of patients.

"This technology is in the initial stage and its results need to be cross-checked. Therefore we have decided to conduct this study," said Suresh Kakani, Additional Commissioner, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

He said the biggest advantage of the technology is that itis a non-invasive test without any side effects.

As compared to other existing tests, the non-invasive voice sample analysis test is cheaper and produces results within 30 seconds, another official said.

Kakani said the study will be conducted on 2,000 patients admitted at a jumbo COVID-19 facility in suburban Goregaon.

Officials hope that if the technology proves successful, it will be useful for detecting asymptomatic people at crowded places like airports, malls, theatres, bus stands and railway stations.

This AI-based technology is developed by an Israel- based company, another official said, adding that thetest can be conducted using smartphones, tablets or computers.

Civic-run Nair Hospital's Dean Dr NeelamAndrade said patients taking the AI-based test will be asked to count numerals from50 to 70. 'Voice biomarkers' will be used to detect COVID-19 infection, she said.

"When a patient develops symptoms of COVID-19, he or she faces breathing problems which affects the amount of air exhaled, thereby interacting with inflamed muscles on its journey to generate voices or speech," Dr Andrade explained.

Patients testing positive will undergo a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) swab test to confirm the COVID-19 diagnosis, she said.

Presently, the BMC is conducting rapid antigen and RT-PCR tests to detect coronavirus infection. Some hospitals and laboratories are also using rapid-antibody tests, which cost in the range of Rs 500 to Rs 2,500.

Mumbai's COVID-19 case count stood at 1,23,382 and death toll at 6,799 as on August 9, as per state health department.

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