Monday June 18, 2018

This AI Tool May Accelerate Diagnosis Of Eye Diseases, Pneumonia

Besides eye diseases, the tool was able to differentiate between viral and bacterial childhood pneumonia with greater than 90 percent accuracy

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The researchers also used occlusion testing, which allowed them to show areas of greatest importance when reviewing the scan images. Pixabay
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A novel image-based diagnostic tool, developed using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning techniques, may potentially speed up diagnoses and treatment of patients with retinal diseases and pneumonia among children, researchers say.

The findings showed that the new tool uses big data and AI to not only recognize two of the most common retinal diseases — macular degeneration and diabetic macular edema — but also to rate their severity.

“Macular degeneration and diabetic macular edema are the two most common causes of irreversible blindness but are both very treatable if they are caught early,” said Kang Zhang, Professor at the University of California-San Diego.

ALSO READ: Is Your Child Avoiding Eye Contact? He May Be Anxious, Says New Study

“Deciding how and when to treat patients has historically been handled by a small community of specialists who require years of training and are concentrated mostly in urban areas.”

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It can also distinguish between bacterial and viral pneumonia in children based on chest x-ray images. IANS

“In contrast, our AI tool can be used anywhere in the world, especially in the rural areas. This is important in places like India, China, and Africa, where there are relatively fewer medical resources,” Zhang said.

For the study, published in the journal Cell, the team studied over 200,000 optical coherence tomography (OCT) images using a technique called transfer learning, where knowledge gained in solving one problem is stored by a computer and applied to different but related problems.

“Machine learning is often like a black box where we don’t know exactly what is happening,” Zhang said.

The researchers then compared the diagnoses from the computer with those from ophthalmologists who reviewed the scans.

ALSO READ: Chronic Diseases Raise Cancer and Mortality Risk

The results showed that the tool “could generate a decision on whether or not the patient should be referred for treatment within 30 seconds and with more than 95 percent accuracy”, Zhang said.

Besides eye diseases, the tool was able to differentiate between viral and bacterial childhood pneumonia with greater than 90 percent accuracy.

It can also discern between cancerous and non-cancerous lesions detected on scans, Zhang said. (IANS)

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A Vaccine Against Pneumonia And Meningitis Saves Million Children

"far too many deaths , about 900 every day, are still being caused by these two infections."

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A child receives a meningitis vaccination at the community center in Al Neem camp for Internally Displaced People in El Daein, East Darfur, Oct. 8, 2012.
A child receives a meningitis vaccination at the community center in Al Neem camp for Internally Displaced People in El Daein, East Darfur, Oct. 8, 2012. VOA

A vaccine against bacterial pneumonia and another against meningitis have saved 1.45 million children’s lives this century, according to a new study.

The diseases the vaccines prevent are now concentrated in a handful of countries where the medications are not yet widely available or were only recently introduced, the research says.

Pneumonia is the leading cause of death among children worldwide. The bacteria targeted by the shots, Haemophilus influenzae type b (known as Hib) and Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus), are major causes of pneumonia and also cause meningitis. Together, the two bacteria claimed nearly 1.1 million lives in 2000, before the vaccines were widely available, according to the World Health Organization.

Vaccines against the bacteria are not new, but funding to provide them in low-income countries only became available recently.

A baby with parents
A baby with parents, Pixabay

To estimate their impact, the researchers started with country-by-country data from the WHO on pneumonia and meningitis cases and deaths, as well as vaccine coverage estimates. They factored in data from dozens of clinical studies on infections caused by the two bacteria to create estimates of illness and death from the diseases in 2000 and 2015.

They found deaths from Hib fell by 90 percent in 2015, saving an estimated 1.2 million lives since 2000. Pneumococcus deaths fell by just over half, accounting for approximately 250,000 lives saved.

The research appears in the journal The Lancet Global Health.

“What was interesting was to see the rate at which some of these deaths have been prevented in the last several years,” said lead author Brian Wahl at Johns Hopkins University, “largely due to the availability of funding for these vaccines in countries with some of the highest burdens [of disease].”

The study estimates that 95 percent of the reduction in pneumococcal deaths occurred after 2010, when 52 low- and middle-income countries began receiving funding from Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, to introduce the vaccine into their national immunization programs.

“The good news is that the numbers are moving in the right direction,” wrote Cynthia Whitney at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an accompanying editorial.

Pneumonia in child
Pneumonia in child, flickr

However, Whitney added, “far too many deaths — about 900 every day — are still being caused by these two infections.”

She notes that more than 40 percent of the world’s children live in countries where pneumococcal vaccine is not a routine childhood immunization.

Many of the countries with the largest number of deaths from these two bacteria have recently introduced the vaccines, but coverage is uneven.

India, Nigeria, China and South Sudan had the highest rates of death from Hib, the study says. All but China have introduced the vaccine in the past few years.

Half of the world’s pneumococcal deaths occurred in just four countries: India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Pakistan. All have recently introduced the vaccine, though in India it is a routine immunization in only three states.

Also read:AI tool accelerate diagnosis eye diseases

Lowering the global burden of these diseases will depend on improving coverage in these countries, the study says. (VOA)