26 September 2023

Hospital finds AI the real thing

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Royal Adelaide Hospital researchers (RAH) have begun using artificial intelligence (AI) to identify which patients should and should not receive certain antibiotics.

According to the Hospital, AI tools can help clinicians re-classify patients who mistakenly avoid the most effective antibiotics for them accurately and quickly.

“Not all allergies are true allergies,” the Hospital said.

“Penicillin antibiotics are the primary treatment to fight many infections in hospital, however, around 10 per cent of patients have a penicillin allergy label on their medical record, which means that doctors must prescribe a different antibiotic that may be more costly and less effective.”

It said the problem was that most of the patients were not actually allergic and could receive penicillin.

“Some may be penicillin intolerant rather than allergic, which means that they might have had side-effects such as nausea in the past, but it is still safe and recommended to have a penicillin antibiotic.”

Resident Medical Officer at the RAH, Dr Melinda Jiang, said that having an incorrect penicillin allergy label could delay the administration of the right antibiotic to patients, which could be crucial when treating life-threatening infections such as sepsis.

“It can also result in an increased risk of infection with resistant bacterial strains, an unnecessarily delayed recovery, and prolonged stays in hospital,” Dr Jiang said.

She said reviewing all allergy labels to improve their accuracy would help patients and hospitals.

The hospital team has demonstrated that AI can be successfully used to review penicillin allergy labels and predict whether it is a true allergy or instead an intolerance.

“Our research involves the world-first use of machine learning algorithms to identify RAH inpatients suitable for penicillin allergy evaluation,” Dr Jiang said.

“This is much more efficient than manually looking for every recorded penicillin allergy in the hospital,” she said.

“Once identified, the Immunology team can assess these patients, and if it is safe to do so, we can test their reaction. If it is not a true allergic reaction, the ‘allergy’ label can be safely removed.”

Dr Jiang believes the impact of this success could be massive for patients.

“If we can use AI to help us improve the accuracy of penicillin allergy labels, we can give the right antibiotics to the right patients,” she said.

“This will reduce complications and bacterial resistance, allow people to recover from infections faster and get home soon.”

Further information about penicillin reaction labels can be accessed at this PS News link.

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