The Daily Telegraph

App can diagnose Covid with simple voice test in less than a minute

- By Daily Telegraph Reporter

AN APP has been developed that can detect coronaviru­s in a person’s voice and is said to be more accurate than a lateral flow test.

The mobile app takes less than a minute to flag positive cases and is accurate 89 per cent of the time and 83 per cent of the time for negative cases.

In contrast, the accuracy of lateral flow tests varies widely depending on the brand and the nose and throat swabs are less good at picking up infectious people without symptoms.

The app could be used to screen people for the virus before they attend mass events such as concerts.

It could also be deployed in poorer countries, where PCR tests are expensive and often difficult to distribute.

The Dutch researcher­s say coronaviru­s usually affects the upper respirator­y tract and vocal chords, leading to changes in a person’s voice. The team investigat­ed whether it was possible to detect the novel virus in people’s voices.

When developing it, they used data from the University of Cambridge’s crowdsourc­ing Covid-19 Sounds App, which contains 893 audio samples from 4,352 participan­ts, 308 of whom had tested positive for the virus. The app is installed on the user’s mobile phone and the participan­ts report basic details about demographi­cs, medical history and smoking status.

They are then asked to record some respirator­y sounds which include coughing three times, breathing deeply through their mouth three to five times and reading a short sentence on the screen three times.

The researcher­s used a voice analysis technique called Mel-spectrogra­m analysis, which identifies different voice features such as loudness, power and variation over time.

Researcher Wafaa Aljbawi, from the University of Maastricht, said: “These promising results suggest that simple voice recordings and fine-tuned AI algorithms can potentiall­y achieve high precision in determinin­g which patients have Covid-19 [infection].”

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