Predicting The Next Virus To Spread

Predicting the next virus to spread from animals to humans using AI

Most of the new contagious viruses that arise in humans, such as COVID-19, are derived from other animal species. But, with only a fraction of the approximated 1.7 million animal-borne viruses capable of infecting human beings, identifying the viruses that pose the biggest threat is a huge chore.

Scientists at the University of Glasgow have developed a technique for utilizing machine learning – a kind of artificial intelligence – to sift through the viruses’ genomes and foretell their possibility of infecting human beings.

This approach could help researchers develop vaccines to protect themselves against the most possible candidates before they jump from animals to humans.

Dr. Simon Babayan, the author of the study and a lecturer at the Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health & Comparative Medicine, University of Glasgow, stated that these verdicts add an essential part of the already remarkable amount of knowledge that we were able to extract from the genetic sequence of the virus using artificial intelligence.

Genomic sequences are usually the primary and often the only data we have about a newly identified virus. The more information we can derive from it, the sooner

we can identify the origins of the virus and the zoonotic threat it poses.

With more viruses being characterized, the machine learning model will be more effective in identifying rare viruses that should be carefully monitored and prioritized for pre-emptive vaccine development.

The researchers trained machine learning models to screen the genomes of 861 animal viruses and indicate possibilities depending on their similarity to viruses identified to infect human beings. They then employed their best model to examine the patterns in the genomes of additional viruses collected from a variety of animals.

They discovered that some viral genomes might have distinguishable genetic characteristics that allow them to jump from animals to human beings.

The scientist stated that the viruses identified by the models will now need more laboratory tests to affirm that they are capable of infecting human beings. Only additional studies will confirm their potential to jump between human begins and the environmental conditions in which they can survive.

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