Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) have developed a new method to counter the emerging mutations of the coronavirus. The results are published in the journal Nature Research.

Using artificial intelligence (AI), a research team at the University of California at Viterbi School of Engineering has developed a method to speed up vaccine analysis and focus on the best preventive medical therapy.

It is easily adaptable to analyze potential virus mutations. A machine learning model can perform vaccine development cycles that used to take months or years in seconds and minutes, the study said.

Using AI, engineers can create a new multi-epitope vaccine for a new virus in less than a minute and validate its quality within an hour. In contrast, modern virus control processes require growing the pathogen in the laboratory, deactivating it, and administering the virus that caused the disease. The process is laborious and takes more than a year; meanwhile, the disease is spreading. This method will come in handy for future pandemics.

The new method will be especially useful in the current stage of the pandemic when the coronavirus begins to mutate around the world. Some scientists are concerned that mutations could reduce the effectiveness of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. Recent variants of the virus, emerging in the UK, South Africa, and Brazil, appear to spread more easily. This, according to scientists, will lead to much more cases of illness, death, and hospitalization.

If SARS-CoV-2 becomes out of control with current vaccines, or if new ones are needed to combat other viruses, the AI-assisted USC method can be used to speed up the process.