Using artificial intelligence to identify promising coronavirus treatments

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Treating patients with the never-before-seen Covid-19 is forcing doctors to choose between two equally unpalatable options: try an unproven therapy and hope it works, or treat patients with standard supportive care for severe respiratory disease until a randomized controlled trial establishes the best treatment.

But maybe the choice doesn’t have to be so stark.

A randomized controlled trial ramping up in dozens of hospitals around the world proposes a third way — fusing those two approaches together by using artificial intelligence to home in on the most effective treatments on the fly.

The REMAP-CAP study seeks to turn frenetic attempts to save lives on the front lines into a running international experiment, with the goal of quickly identifying optimal treatments for desperately ill patients. By analyzing data on outcomes from more than 50 hospitals, organizers hope to supply fast answers to pressing questions… . The trial will also allow the researchers to test multiple therapies at once.

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While the approach seems ideally suited to providing answers during the pandemic, it faces a number of challenges, including the need to rapidly compile and analyze data from dozens of hospitals with different record-keeping systems on three continents, and then update protocols in unison during a crisis that is straining clinical resources.

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