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March 31, 2020

Technology developed for breast cancer detection will now be used for early diagnosis of COVID-19

Healthcare experts, including NBCF-funded researcher Professor Patrick Brennan, have launched a world-first free online tool to aid in the diagnosis of COVID-19 across the world.

The innovative technology was developed by Australian-based radiation and screening experts as a way to help doctors diagnose Coronavirus patients with greater speed and accuracy.

Currently, the tests used for detection of COVID-19 simply tell health professionals whether the patient has COVID-19 or not. The free online platform, CovED made available by University of Sydney Start up DetectED-X, can train doctors to spot signs of COVID-19 in CT scans of patients’ lungs in the very early stages of the disease allowing for immediate and effective treatment to proceed and ultimately save lives.

The program known as CovED will facilitate rapid training and upskilling of staff unfamiliar with lung radiology. The training can be completed in 1-2 hours, is free and can be accessed anywhere via the internet.

Scan one: No signs of COVID-19 and indications of severe COVID-19. Photo credit: DetectED-X.


Scan two: The white inside the lung CT in 2nd image shows the immune response to the infection before it becomes more solid like pneumonia. Photo credit: DetectED-X

The CovED program was based off the success of the BreastScreen Reader Assessment Strategy (BREAST) which was launched in 2010 by Professor Patrick Brennan and Professor Warwick Lee in conjunction with BreastScreen Australia. BREAST is an online test that evaluates the performance of radiologists reading digital breast X-rays from mammograms. Professor Brennan says that clinicians (radiologists, breast physicians, registrars) who train on BREAST, combined with a BreastScreen program that ensures mammograms are read at least twice, has increased accuracy in correctly identifying the presence of tumours on digital scans by 34 per cent. By repurposing the program and adapting it to detect COVID-19 in CT lung scans, it is hoped that similar results will be achieved for patients with Coronavirus.

As the number of cases for Coronavirus increases, the CovED platform will train and upskill staff in lung radiology for expert review, helping to provide much-needed assistance to already overwhelmed healthcare workers.

“The CovED platform should better enable clinicians wherever they are located in the world to recognise the appearances of COVID-19 on lung CTs.  By making the platform free-of-charge and working with GE Health care, Volpara, Amazon and WCEA to facilitate global distribution, we hope that as many clinicians world-wide will use the software as possible,” says Professor Patrick Brennan.

Medical professionals, hospitals and other institutions can register to access the platform here

SEE ALSO: COVID-19 Fact Sheet for Breast Cancer Patients

CovED is truly an international collaboration of experts in the field including Professors Stuart Grieve and Greg Fox from the University of Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital; respiratory radiologist Dr Sam McCormack from Alfred Imaging Group; Dr Nigel Sommerfeld CEO of Lungscreen Australia; Dr Paul Smith, a consultant radiologist at Epworth; Dr Marcus McMahon, radiologist with Epworth HealthCare; and Professor Patrick Brennan, University of Sydney; along with our Italian partners, clinicians at the National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Rome, Dr Fabrizio and Dr Cristofaro.

The DetectED-X team comprises: Professor Brennan, Professor Mary Rickard, Dr Moe Suleiman, Mr Thomas Davies, Mr Michael Scott and Mr Jeroen Bolluijt