As scientists try to track the spread of Coronavirus throughout the UK, technology has played its part with mobile phone apps becoming a valuable tool.
Now, an app developed by King's College London and technology company Zoe is being used to conduct one of the world’s largest studies into the symptoms and spread of coronavirus.
Unrelated to the NHS track and trace app, the King's College Covid Symptom Study app tracks symptoms of the disease, and has so far been downloaded by over three million smartphone users in the UK.
The COVID Symptom Study app is easy to use and simply asks people to give daily health updates, whether they feel ill or not, and to log any coronavirus symptoms they may be experiencing.
What is the aim of the app?
The research that the app will help scientists with some key areas relating to COVID-19. Including:
- Better understanding the symptoms of COVID-19
- Learning how quickly Coronavirus is spreading in different areas
- Identify the areas where there is most risk
- Identifying individuals most at risk due to existing health conditions
The team at King’s College London, led by Professor Tim Spector, has now begun a clinical trial using AI tools and the info people have submitted through the COVID Symptom Study App.
The study will test if accurate predictions of whether a person actually has COVID-19 based on the symptoms they report in the app can be made. If successful these could be used as a ‘digital test’.
A digital test that provides accurate results would be very beneficial. It would be easy to complete, would supply results quickly and would be readily accessible to a large number of people who otherwise may have difficulty getting to actual testing sites.
Millions of people could then easily be tested every day, and the small number of people who need follow up testing could easily be identified.
How will the study work?
Anyone over the age of 18 who has been using the COVID Symptom Study app to report symptoms will be asked to participate in the study.
Anyone using the app who then becomes unwell will be invited to get a traditional swab test. Then, they’ll be asked to keep on logging their symptoms into the app, and enter the results of their Coronavirus swab test. The results will then be compared to the AI diagnostic predictions, and against current NHS health advice.
Professor Tim Spector of King's College London said: “We are really excited to be launching this clinical trial at King’s College London. It’s incredibly important for us to validate the algorithm. By doing so we are a step closer to creating a highly accurate tool that will be able to tell people whether or not they have COVID without them needing to wait for a test. People will be able to make decisions about things like self isolation based on this data and means we will be able to slow the spread of the deadly virus.”
The COVID Symptom Study App is available to download for free from the Apple App Store for iPhone users and the Google Play Store for Android users.