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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Artificial intelligence to be used in 'urgent' fight against tuberculosis, says UAE minister

UAE's AI minister says the disease continues to pose a deadly threat

Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, the UAE's minister of state for Artificial Intelligence, says technology can be used to improve detection rates for tuberculosis.
Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, the UAE's minister of state for Artificial Intelligence, says technology can be used to improve detection rates for tuberculosis.

Artificial intelligence will be a key weapon in the "urgent" fight against the global threat of tuberculosis, UAE minister said.

The deadly disease claims the lives of more than two million people across the world every year and the UAE already conducts rigorous health screenings for newcomers to the country to help prevent its spread.

TB is a contagious infection that attacks the lungs, and affects about 10 million people worldwide.

Omar bin Sultan Al Olama, the UAE's Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, said the government is working "tirelessly" to diagnose TB more efficiently.

Speaking on the first day of the UN World Data Forum in Dubai, Mr Al Olama said the disease remains a "great challenge".

He said AI technology can be used to help combat many conditions.

"It [TB] represents a great challenge we must face, as we urgently need to treat the disease and employ technology to do that."

He said AI can be used to used to simplify the process of monitoring and diagnosing tuberculosis.

"In the office of the Ministry of Artificial Intelligence, we work tirelessly to formulate solutions based on the algorithms that can be harnessed to monitor TB and diagnose it using chest X-ray examinations. These solutions enable us to identify the disease by uploading the patient’s X-ray in the system, which in turn will specify the possibility of tuberculosis in the patient."

He pointed out that TB can be prevented and even treated, so no excuses can be made in tackling the disease.

He said the biggest challenge remains a lack of awareness about TB and its dangers.

Mr Al Olama said new technology will allow healthcare teams to go to an area where TB is thought to have spread and use tools supported by AI to perform group examinations.

The X-rays are then placed in the diagnostic system, which specifies whether or not the patient has contracted the disease.

He said that the new system offers several advantages, the most important of which is allowing the targeting of specified geographic areas where tuberculosis is prevalent. This means the doctor does not need to be present, contributing greatly to limiting the costs.

TB is the world's biggest infectious killer and is the ninth-leading cause of death across the globe, according to the World Health Organisation.

While rates of the disease are low in the UAE — about one in 100,000 people — authorities are trying to rid the country of TB.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention launched a three-month campaign in September to raise awareness about how TB is transmitted, prevented and how to effectively treat it.

Mr Al Olama said the world must come together and share medical advancements and techniques to beat TB.

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