Covid diagnosis using WhatsApp: How X-ray images can help detect virus

A new startup, based in Bengaluru has devised a new technology called XraySetu that will help India deal with the second wave of Covid-19 which is spreading in the hinterlands of the country. The AI-driven technology uses X-ray images sent via WhatsApp to help determine if the subject is suffering from Covid-19. Users are being invited to test the beta version of the technology.

The images sent over WhatsApp can be highly pixelated due to lack of good quality cameras or just the app’s compression. However, the AI is designed to identify Covid positive patients even from low-resolution chest X-ray images, according to the Department of Science and Technology.

XraySetu is developed by Artpark, a not-for-profit foundation established by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, with support from the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Govt. of India, in collaboration with Bangalore based HealthTech startup Niramai and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

Since most of people in rural areas of the country are deprived of the latest technologies and even doctors to diagnose Covid-19, the new XraySetu software will help bridge the gap between doctors and patients in the rural heartlands of the country. The specially designed platform also helps in early intervention through rapid screening of Covid-19 with chest X-ray interpretation for doctors who have access to X-ray machines, it said.

It also has semantic annotations of affected areas for review and localised heatmap by doctors to help them verify it easily with other modalities and has served close to 1,200 plus reports so far from the interior parts of India, according to a release by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

How it works

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The working on XraySetu using WhatsApp

To conduct the health check, any doctor simply needs to visit and click on the ‘Try the Free XraySetu Beta’ button.

The platform will then redirect the person to another page, wherein he or she can choose to engage with the WhatsApp-based chatbot via web or smartphone application. The doctor can also simply send a WhatsApp message to the phone number +91 8046163838 to start the XraySetu service.

“Then they just need to click the picture of the patient’s X-ray and obtain the two-page automated diagnostics with annotated images in a few minutes. While extending the probability of the COVID-19 contraction, the report also highlights a localised heatmap for a quick perusal of the doctor,” the DST said.

Tested and validated with over 1,25,000 X-ray images from the National Institute of Health, UK, as well as over 1,000 plus Indian COVID-19 patients, XraySetu, has shown excellent performance with sensitivity: 98.86%, and specificity: 74.74%.

Besides Covid-19, the platform can also detect 14 additional lung-related ailments, including tuberculosis and pneumonia, alongside others. It can further be used for both analog and digital X-rays and has been successfully piloted by more than 300 doctors in rural areas over the last 10 months, the department said.

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