New pioneering artificial intelligence (AI) technology—which uses x-ray solutions—is capable of accurately diagnosing COVID-19 in just a few minutes.

The groundbreaking program—developed by experts at University of the West of Scotland (UWS)—is able to detect the virus far more quickly than a PCR test, which typically takes roughly two-hours for results.

The goal is to have the technology eventually be used to help relieve strain on hard-pressed accident and emergency departments, particularly in countries where PCR tests are not readily available.

The state-of-the-art technique utilizes x-ray technology, comparing scans to a database of around 3000 images, belonging to patients with COVID-19, healthy individuals, and people with viral pneumonia.

It then uses an AI process—known as deep convolutional neural network, an algorithm typically used to analyze visual imagery—to make a diagnosis. During an extensive testing phase, the technique proved to be more than 98% accurate.

Professor Naeem Ramzan, PhD, director of the Affective and Human Computing for SMART Environments Research Centre at UWS, led the three-person team behind the project.

 “There has long been a need for a quick and reliable tool that can detect COVID-19, and this has become even more true with the upswing of the Omicron variant,” says Ramzan. “Several countries are unable to carry out large numbers of COVID tests because of limited diagnosis tools, but this technique utilizes easily accessible technology to quickly detect the virus.

The team now plans to expand the study, incorporating a greater database of x-ray images acquired by different models of imaging machines, to evaluate the suitability of the approach in a clinical setting.

“This is potentially game-changing research. It’s another example of the purposeful, impactful work that has gone on at UWS throughout the pandemic, making a genuine difference in the fight against COVID-19,” says Professor Milan Radosavljevic, PhD, vice-principal of Research, Innovation and Engagement at UWS. “I am incredibly proud of the drive and innovation demonstrated by our internationally renowned academics, as they strive to find solutions to urgent global problems.”

Featured image: Professor Naeem Ramzan (right) explains a result from the new, rapid COVID test. Photo:
University of the West of Scotland