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Researchers around the globe tackle COVID: their results and code

Never have so many in the research community pivoted to focus on the same problem – from numerous angles – so quickly. COVID-19 has united researchers around the world to help better understand the virus, how it affects our bodies and economies, how best to contain it, treat it, and protect others from catching it.

With hopes of combatting the pandemic and learning how to help those affected by it, countless researchers are sharing access to their work and code and the MathWorks Research Support Team has assembled a collection of research papers, blogs, code, and simulation apps related to COVID-19. Work shared by commercial firms, especially in the area of ventilator design, is also hosted on the page. Here is a sampling of the work contained on the page:

Does COVID-19 change your brain?

A team of radiologists examined 60 recovered COVID-19 patients and 39 people who never contracted the disease. The results were published in The Lancet.

The researchers found neurological symptoms were present in 55% of COVID-19 patients, suggesting potential long-term neurological effects from the virus. The areas of the brain affected correlate to memory loss and the loss of the sense of smell.

The regions with relative higher mean values (density) in the COVID-19 group were marked as red, and the regions with relatively lower mean values in the COVID-19 group were marked as blue. Image credit: Lu


The team used SPM-12, a free, downloadable, community-developed MATLAB toolbox.

How many people need to receive a vaccine to stop the epidemic spread?

Herd immunity is a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, preventing epidemic growth. Herd immunity thresholds (HITs) are used to determine targets for vaccination coverage targets since herd immunity can be reached through vaccination or previous infection.

Researchers from the University of Oxford, the Universidade de São Paulo, the University of Edinburgh, the Universidade do Porto, and the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow recently published a paper on medRxiv showing the percent of individuals that need to be vaccinated, or previously infected by the virus, varies based on individual susceptibility and connectivity. As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, areas with both high connectivity and individuals with higher susceptibility have seen greater spread or R0, the average number of cases attributed to each infected individual.

Herd immunity calculations with varying susceptibility (top) and connectivity (bottom) for four countries. The solid line shows the expected HIT for COVID-19, while the dashed lines show the final sizes for unmitigated epidemics. Image credit: Aguas et. al


The code for this study is available on GitHub.

In New York City, are the wealthy more likely to receive a COVID test?

In a paper, COVID-19: Testing Inequality in New York City, researchers from the National Bureau of Economic Research examined the impact of income on test accessibility, and surprisingly found that the access was quite equal.

The study found, “The ten percent of the city’s population living in the richest zip codes received 11 percent of the Covid-19 tests and 29 percent of the city’s income. The ten percent of the city’s population living in the poorest zip codes received 10 percent of the tests but only 4 percent of the city’s income.”

In other words, the testing rates roughly matched the size of the population in both the highest income and lowest income zip codes. There was, however, a marked difference in the rates in positive test results between the two groups. Check out the COVID-19 Research and Development page to see how those rates differed.

The data used in this investigation along with the MATLAB code to replicate the tables and figures are available here.

Can PET/CT imaging diagnose COVID-19 complications?

We’ve repeatedly been told that not all patients have the same COVID symptoms. And when there is a suspected case of COVID, it can be difficult to determine how severe the infection is.

The article, Value of PET/CT and MATLAB in Detection of COVID-19 in an Oncology Patient – Case Report, shared a case study of a patient. They were able to quantitatively show the severity of the infection in the patient’s lungs.

CT image of the 28 years old male patient and the related pixelated CT map using MATLAB, which together with the various density levels of the infected lung demonstrates quantitatively severity of the disease. Image credit: Masoomi et. al.


Making Custom 3D Printed Masks

Need a well-fitting mask? Dr. Kevin Moerman, a lecturer at the National University of Ireland Galway and a research affiliate at MIT Media Lab’s Biomechanics group, has shared an automated subject-specific mask design system to create a custom 3D printed mask.


Fun fact: He used a scan of Nefertiti’s mask as an example.

Image credit: Kevin Moerman


Robots help disinfect, indoors and out

To decontaminate surfaces and slow the spread of the disease, Weston Robot created disinfecting robots for both building interiors and outside spaces. The remote operation ensures human operators are not exposed to chemical disinfecting solutions. It also keeps humans out of potentially infected indoor spaces, enabling the use of UV-C lights to destroy the virus.

One of the three disinfecting robots released in March 2020. Image credit: Weston Robot

How to determine when COVID-19 pool testing will be most effective

How do you test more people without using more testing supplies and lab time? Health officials are increasingly proposing pooled testing—mixing several people’s biological samples and examining them in a single test—to drastically boost the capacity without increasing the number of tests. It works best when the prevalence of the disease is low: But testing such populations in this manner can increase the availability of individual tests in hard-hit areas. According to Smithsonian Magazine, “Pooled testing could be the fastest and cheapest way to increase Coronavirus testing.”

One possible pool testing approach

The study, Group Testing for COVID-19: How to Stop Worrying and Test More, looked at issues such as dilution. It found PCR-based testing could still perform well, but that the approach to pool testing should be modified depending on the projected rate of infection in a population.

The MATLAB code for generating the test plans is available online.

More studies are added weekly

The COVID-19 Research and Development page is updated regularly. And if you’d like to add your work or code to this page, there is a link at the bottom of the page to contact the team that curates the content.



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