Artificial intelligence on the hunt for the Corona virus

An algorithm developed by British researchers seems to be bringing bad news when it comes to global eradication of the coronavirus. The discovery of artificial intelligence is as frustrating as it is frightening. She confirms that the Corona Virus in nature has a bright future ahead of it anyway. A team of scientists from the University of Liverpool, who apply artificial intelligence to the kits of mammals, are likely to bring the next Sars, Sars-CoV-2 or Mers-CoV to life. How is the discovery? She’s amazing.

In their writings, scientists put forward 40 times more species that can store at least 4 times more forms of coronavirus in them and about 30 times more mammals that can allow the combination of Sars-Cov-2. Because of our limited knowledge about which mammals are potential receptacles for which coronaviruses, scientists have developed this algorithm to fill these knowledge gaps. This made it possible to understand where recombination of these viruses can arise to form new, much more dangerous viruses.

At least that’s what Marcus Blagrove, a virologist at the University of Liverpool and one of the co-authors of the scientific paper, told France 24. “Before the advent of Sars-coV-2, we had very little interest in the pangolin,” adds Maya Wardeh, lead author of the study who also answered questions from France 24. According to May Wardeh, mammals abound on Earth so humans can study them all. Moreover, some of these mammals live in countries that do not have the necessary resources to carry out this kind of mammalian research.

A large number of these mammals are not an obstacle to such an algorithm that is endowed with the “big data” that our researchers use. For this, of course, these researchers have listed a significant number of mammals. And they supplied this amount of mammals to their homemade artificial intelligence, they specified the biological family with other animals that are known to be carriers of the Corona Virus and the environment: so the geographical area where they live or even the life expectancy of these animals. These are all important data to deliver to the machine. They did the same for known viruses.

The machine has therefore to date fully mapped the following animals: all rodents, carnivores, bats or even artiodactyl (ungulates), that is, cattle and hippos that can be reservoirs of different variants of the Coronavirus. To be more precise, according to Maya Wardeh, the model calculates the possibility for each species of mammal to be infected with each of these viruses, allowing us to predict which hosts there may be for several coronaviruses at the same time. The conclusion is therefore frightening. On average, each coronavirus can have 12.5 carrier mammals, and each animal that has been examined can be infected with 5.5 different viruses, according to these calculations.

An even more efficient algorithm made it possible to go even further in the calculations. For Sars-CoV-2, artificial intelligence has estimated 126 species of potential hosts scattered in nature, which explains that this would be 122 more than what was found when the Liverpool researchers were put to work in the summer of 2020.

For example, the small Asian yellow bat, the hedgehog or the European rabbit should be added to the list of potential reservoirs of Sar-CoV-2. This research has led to the identification of the most dangerous coronavirus “pressure cookers” in the animal kingdom. Bats are, of course, at the top of the list. Some of them may be infected with 68 different coronaviruses. This is the case with the large bat species that live in Europe and that bear the name of the great horseshoe.

The algorithm of the British researchers has surprisingly mentioned that the domestic cat is permeable to various viruses. He can get more than 65 coronaviruses, including Sars-CoV-2. For researchers, this small domesticated cat is therefore one of the most important as-currently unknown risks that could become the main focus of the new virus. The result of the mixing of those who would be present in his body.

But researchers are already reassuring. They point out that this result is the result of machine calculations and not of field experiments. Should we hope? Yes of course and that’s what Maya Wardeh admits. “It is clear that these conclusions are not 100% correct. But the researchers are convinced of the power of their model. Since developing it, the scientific community has discovered several new hosts of Sars-CoV-2, such as mink, and “in most cases, they were identified by the algorithm,” Marcus Blagrove emphasized. Developments in the research will tell us even more, but for now it is not yet the time to panic. So cats are not a threat, at least not for now.

“That doesn’t mean you should stop petting your cat,” reassures Maya Wardeh, still on France 24. It is not because the small animal is potentially permeable to the greater number of coronaviruses that it will necessarily infect them.  To become infected, a cat must be near another mammal that transmits the virus to it. And for a domestic cat that goes outside under supervision, such an opportunity is a little difficult to avoid. This research, thanks to artificial intelligence, does not point to the possibilities of seeing new coronaviruses appear in these observed reservoirs. The only thing research can understand is identifying animals that can serve as reservoirs for coronaviruses. According to Marcus Blagrove, calculating effective risk is infinitely more complex.

In fact, the work of these Liverpool researchers does not detect possible combinations that could result in the more virulent Sars-CoV-2 or other numerous coronaviruses that would cause the common cold in humans. According to the researchers, he is a bioinformatician who may be able to anticipate the characteristics of the outcome of this possible mix.

We believe the algorithm’s predictions point to an animal kingdom that is more dangerous to our health. British researchers have a different goal. It’s that of describing a phenomenon that already exists in nature – coronavirus recombination’s – and of specifying species to watch as they may be exposed to different coronaviruses. The researchers, of course, want to save the world from a new surprise attack with the help of artificial intelligence, as was the case with the corona virus.