June 29, 2020 2:43:10 am
As the number of Covid-19 cases in Karnataka rises, faculty members and researchers have submitted a bunch of proposals for research on the infection and its treatment.
The study of ECG readings of Covid-19 patients to understand the virus’ effect on functioning of the heart and the possibility of using artificial intelligence to tailor treatment protocols are among the 43 proposals received by the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences, the main healthcare university in the state.
The proposals have been received from faculty members at the institutions affiliated to the university, including medical colleges attached to the main Covid-19 facilities in the state. The proposals have been submitted after the university called for such proposals on May 11. The university is offering grants worth Rs 3 crore for the research.
The head of advanced research activities at the university, Dr G S Venkatesh, said the proposals are broadly under the categories of “diagnostic, therapeutic issues and predictors of severity of Covid-19”. “What we are looking at is the biological aspects of the disease. We are also looking at equipment – can we do ventilatory management if a person requires it, can we modify design in such a way that it is cheap while delivering whatever is needed,” he said.
One of the areas of interest is the use of artificial intelligence to determine personalised protocols as witnessed in treatment of various kinds of cancer. “We are looking at whether artificial intelligence can be used in the maintenance and management of Covid-19. If computers are fed extensive knowledge on protocols for managing Covid-19 patients for various severities and if the characteristics of a particular patient are fed, then the computer should be able to predict what is the best treatment protocol to be adapted for each patient,” Dr Venkatesh said.
The effect of Covid-19 infection on the functioning of various organs is another area of interest where collaborative work is likely, he said.
“So far, we were thinking that the lung is the only site where damage occurs in a Covid-19 patient. Now we are aware that it is a multi-organ disease and even the heart may be involved. Many patients with Covid-19 may develop symptoms of myocarditis,” he said.
“One cardiologist is looking at the changes in ECG for a healthcare worker who treats a Covid 19 patient. He is also looking at ECG changes during the course of the disease in a Covid-19 patient,” Dr Venkatesh said.
The effect of the use of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a prophylaxis by healthcare workers is another research area in focus at the institutions handling Covid-19 cases.
“Hydroxychloroquine which is used as a prophylaxis by health care workers is associated with a risk of a process called QTC prolongation (which causes changes in heart rhythm). So there is an effort to study if this 400 mg dose that we give daily to a normal individual has any effect on the QTC in a healthcare worker,” he pointed out.
“Thrombosis (blood clotting) is a big, big area in Covid-19 and we are almost certain now that the infection leads to a derangement of the coagulation mechanism with enhancement of thromboembolism. Why is it that coagulation abnormalities occur in Covid-19, what is responsible for this, going to the root cause is important,” he said.
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