In recent years, we have experienced the emergence of infectious diseases, from the Covid-19 pandemic to the re-emerging Monkeypox established outside Africa, its original epidemic areas. WHO and all countries around the world needed to approach the situation as an emergency. One thing we should be reminded of is that these will not be the last pandemics. There are more waiting for us in the future.
The Covid-19 pandemic has given us one of the greatest lessons to humanity that we have to act fast to avert the damages from the outbreaks as the new variants of coronavirus, the reemergence of the Monkeypox, or other emerging diseases. AI can be an effective tool that has become more advanced and reliable. In this article, I will walk you through the roles of AI in preventing, mitigating, and dealing with pandemics.
The emergence of epidemics is somehow unpredictable and unpreventable, but within AI capabilities, it is possible to mitigate and control damages. The ability of AI to process massive volumes of data makes it useful to predict outbreaks and announce early warnings. For example, AI can be utilized to build a machine learning model that integrates data such as people's movements, consumer choices, and changes in daily activities to detect possibilities of outbreaks to provide a timely alert. A machine learning model gathers data on worldwide pandemic situations to predict the next outbreak regions. An AI can also track patients to identify differences in symptoms based on factors like gender, age, and morbidities to understand disease progression and redesign treatment.
Besides, AI is incredibly helpful for drug discovery. Discovering drugs as soon as possible is one way that can effectively end the pandemic. AI can speed up the process as well as uncover possibilities in drug manufacturing, for example, an AI platform for coronavirus antiviral properties search using structural biology and computational chemistry. There is also a model designed to find potential uses in existing medicine, for example, the combination of Remdesivir and arthritis pills to cure Covid-19. All these abilities are far beyond human capabilities.
Destruction of the environment is one of the primary causes behind newly emerging infectious diseases, particularly zoonoses. Urbanization forces animals and humans to get closer, leading to higher risks of disease transmission such as Coronavirus which is assumably from bats, Monkeypox from monkeys and rodents, and Swine flu (H1N1) from pigs.
As a result, environmental conservation and ecosystem protection can reduce and prevent the future emergence of infectious diseases. AI can be deployed as a tool for conservation and disease prevention, for example, computer vision to track animals and estimate the population sizes to study and prepare for zoonoses, or to detect and prevent deforestation. Furthermore, AI is used to analyze genomic sequences of viruses infecting animals in order to predict whether they could potentially jump from their animal hosts into humans.
For future pandemics, if we are fully equipped with AI tools to predict and prevent outbreaks, discover drugs and vaccines, and mitigate and control damages, we will be able to effectively handle the situation and minimize unwanted losses.