Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic we’ve all had to learn about the dangers of “novel viruses,” the necessity of masking up and limiting our interactions with family, friends and co-workers.
None of these precautions are fun, but they’re necessary because experts tell us that anyone could have and spread the virus that causes COVID-19 since asymptomatic cases make up a huge percentage of the infected population.
This means that you could have it and not know, but still give it to your elderly mom with heart disease, your neighbor who’s recovering from cancer treatment or your sister with autoimmune problems — all people who are at far higher risk for a severe case and a dangerous outcome.
It also means that the person who walks by you in the grocery store could unknowingly have the virus and spread it to you—even though you’ve taken every precaution to keep you and your loved ones safe.
But what if there were an easier way to find out if you have COVID — an easier way to find out if anyone has COVID — simply by coughing?
Well, that’s the promise of a new paper published in the IEEE Journal of Engineering in Medicine and Biology.
COVID coughs sound different to AI technology
According to MIT researchers, when someone with COVID coughs, even if they’re one of the asymptomatic cases, their cough sounds different from that of a healthy person, who isn’t infected by the virus — at least to the researcher’s new artificial intelligence model.
The team used the AI model they created to distinguish asymptomatic people from healthy individuals through forced-cough recordings. Basically, the people in the study recorded their coughs on their cellphones and then submitted the recordings to the researchers.
And when those recordings were fed into the new model it:
- Accurately identified 98.5 percent of coughs from people with confirmed COVID cases.
- Delivered accurate identification of 100 percent of coughs from those who had tested positive for COVID but were asymptomatic.
That’s a perfect track-record on the diagnosis of asymptomatic cases, just through the sound of a cough!
In fact, the AI model was so successful that MIT researchers are now working to incorporate it into a user-friendly app. And after getting FDA-approval, they hope to have the app and its capability of giving you a yes or no answer to your COVID infection worries available on a large scale – and possibly even for free.
All you would have to do is log in daily and cough into your phone, and you would instantly receive feedback on whether or not you might be infected so that you would know if you need to have a blood test to confirm.
“The effective implementation of this group diagnostic tool could diminish the spread of the pandemic if everyone uses it before going to a classroom, a factory, or a restaurant,” said co-author Brian Subirana, a research scientist in MIT’s Auto-ID Laboratory.
Instant, easy COVID testing is in the works and soon, you might be able to know if you have the virus just through a cough.