Bengaluru, June 3: A Bengaluru based startup 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.

The images sent over WhatsApp can be highly pixelated due to a 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 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 localized 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.

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How XraySetu works

To conduct the health check, any doctor simply needs to visit and click on the ‘Try the Free X-Ray Setu 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. Or the doctor can simply send a WhatsApp message to the phone number +91 8046163838 to start the X-Ray Setu service.

Then they just need to click the picture of the patient’s X-ray and obtains the 2-page automated diagnostics with annotated images in a few minutes. While extending the probability of the Covid-19 contraction, the report also highlights a localized heatmap for a quick perusal of the doctor.

Tested and validated with over 1,25 000 X-ray images from National Institute of Health, UK, as well as over 1000+ Indian coronavirus patients from, X-Ray Setu, has shown excellent performance with Sensitivity: 98.86%, and Specificity: 74.74%

Soni said that the technology has been operational for the last one week and 500 doctors have come on board to use it.

We are planning to create a strong network of 10,000 doctors in the next 15 days who are trained in leveraging XraySetu so that when the third COVID wave comes, we are ready with solutions that can reach doctors in rural areas,” Soni said.

He said that India had 5,335 rural community health centres as of March 31, 2019, that can be used, and private estimates indicate that two-thirds of them have a working X-Ray machine and a technician to operate it.

We are making our best effort to reach all places where X-ray machines are installed. We will not charge any fee for the next 6-8 months. Even on a paid basis, it will be less than ₹100 per test,” Soni said.

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IISc promoted Artpark has received the support of ₹230 crores from the department of science and technology under National Mission on Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems and the Karnataka government, to develop AI and robotics facilities to support technology innovations.

Niramai founder, CEO and CTO Geetha Manjunath said X-Ray Setu aims at creating an ecosystem for affordable and rapid screening in rural areas, for lung infections like coronavirus, pneumonia, tuberculosis, etc.

We believe X-Ray Setu can play an important role to address the delays and false negatives in the RT PCR test. CT Scan leads to heavy exposure to radiation compared to an X-Ray. X-Ray Setu can be a supplement to RT PCR and CT Scan,” Manjunath said.

Artpark (AI and Robotics Technologies Park) co-founder and chief information officer Subhashis Banerjee said X-Ray Setu intervention can help in the early treatment of patients which in case of an RT-PCR test takes over 24 hours and in some cases, it has been 3-4 days long wait.

Release of patients from hospitals has been on the basis of quantitative parameters. With X-Ray Setu we can add some qualitative parameters because it is harmful to expose a person to CT Scan radiation in a short time,” Banerjee said.

As Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc across the rural heartlands of India, it has become critical to drive rapid testing, contact tracing, and create dedicated containment zones. At a time when such tests are taking more than a week across some cities, the challenge is even more for rural areas. Easy alternative tests are necessary as RT-PCR tests also give a ‘false negative’ for some variants.