COVID-19 appears to have predominantly respiratory symptoms

Area of work


Imaging modality


Size of data set


Dr Fergus Gleeson, NCIMI CMO.

Project lead

Professor Fergus Gleeson

Industry partners

Number of NHS partners


The unmet need

COVID-19 appeared in China in late 2019 and has since spread to the rest of the world. It appears to have predominantly respiratory symptoms. The current method of confirming SARS-CoV-2 infection is by using a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) on a nasopharyngeal swab specimen, which has a turnaround time of 24-48 hours in UK centres.

The sensitivity of the PCR test is thought to be approximately 70% and the need for equipment and trained operators has limited the scaling of testing facilities. The PCR test does not identify or stratify patients according to the severity of symptoms. Currently, all patients being admitted into hospital have chest x-rays (CXRs), and standardised tests such as oxygen measurements and blood tests, with a smaller number having CT scans.

CT, CXR and clinical data has been gathered from 6,500 patients to plan develop a scoring system that will allow clinicians to identify patients who may be sent home, require admission and/or require careful monitoring.

It may also allow clinicians to identify patients who may require ventilation and those who are at very high risk from the infection and will thus require ventilation to avoid death.

The project is also supporting the development of computer derived artificial intelligence programmes that can help with diagnosis and patient monitoring. This activity is underway with our partners industry and academic researchers at GEHC and Icometrix and the University of Oxford.

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