Researchers in America are using AI technology to better understand the immune system’s reaction to viral infections and how severe each patient’s response is likely to be.

With the help of an AI algorithm a team from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine have been monitoring gene expression patterns in a bid to predict the effects of infection and which therapies are going to be most effective. Vital information that will help tackle COVID-19 and future pandemics.

Trawling gene expression data using AI the scientists discovered which genes are ‘on’ or ‘off’ during infection. Which revealed shared patterns in those who had viral infections, including SARS and MERS. It showed the way the immune system responds and how severe it would go on to be in each patient.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic began, I wanted to use my computer science background to find something that all viral pandemics have in common — some universal truth we could use as a guide as we try to make sense of a novel virus,” said Debashis Sahoo, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “This coronavirus may be new to us, but there are only so many ways our bodies can respond to an infection.”

The researchers believe this guide can be key to developing new treatments.

“It is not a matter of if, but when the next pandemic will emerge,” said Pradipta Ghosh, MD, professor of cellular and molecular medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Cente. “We are building tools that are relevant not just for today’s pandemic, but for the next one around the corner.”

The study was published in eBiomedicine.

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