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Toronto tech institute tracking long COVID with artificial intelligence, social media

0 2 years ago

The Vector Institute, an artificial intelligence organization based at the MaRS tech hub in Toronto, has teamed up with telecommunications company Telus Corp., consulting firm Deloitte and diagnostics and pharmaceuticals business Roche Canada to help health care professionals learn more about the symptoms that people with a long-lasting form of COVID experience.

They built an artificial intelligence framework that used machine learning to locate and process 460,000 Twitter posts from people with long COVID _ defined by the Canadian government as people who show symptoms of COVID-19 for weeks or months after their initial recovery.

The framework parsed through tweets to determine which are first-person accounts about long COVID and then tallied up the symptoms described. It found fatigue, pain, brain fog, anxiety and headaches were the most common symptoms and that many with long COVID experienced several symptoms at once.

Replicating that research without AI would have taken a huge amount of hours worked and staff members, who would have had to manually locate hundreds of thousands of social media posts or people and siphon out those without long-COVID or first-person accounts and count symptoms.

“AI is very good at taking large sets of large amounts of data to find patterns,”said Cameron Schuler, Vector’s chief commercialization officer and vice-president of industry innovation.

“It’s for stuff that is way too big for any human to actually be able to hold this in their brain.”

The framework speeds up the research process around a virus that is quickly evolving and still associated with so many unknowns.

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