Researchers aim to use wearable gadgets as Covid-19 symptoms tracker

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on October 30, 2020 Published on October 30, 2020

More sleep, less activity than an individual’s normal levels are significant factors in predicting coronavirus infection: Study

A team of researchers from the Scripps Research Translational Institute carried out their landmark DETECT study to examine whether wearable fitness gadgets can track coronavirus as well.

For this, the researchers used a mobile app to collect smartwatch and activity tracker data from consenting participants. They also gathered their self-reported symptoms and diagnostic test results. The experiment was launched on March 25.

The first six weeks’ examination concluded that wearable devices like Fitbit are capable of identifying cases of Covid-19.

The gadgets can do this by evaluating changes in heart rate, sleep, and activity levels, along with self-reported symptom data. They can identify cases with greater success than by looking at symptoms alone.

Also read: Working household members more likely to transmit Covid-19 to elders: Study

Eric Topol, MD, director and founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, and executive vice president of Scripps Research, said in a statement: “What’s exciting here is that we now have a validated digital signal for Covid-19. The next step is to use this to prevent emerging outbreaks from spreading.”

“Roughly 100 million Americans already have a wearable tracker or smartwatch and can help us; all we need is a tiny fraction of them — just 1 per cent or 2 per cent — to use the app,” he added.

For the study, the team used health data from fitness wearables and other devices to identify — with roughly 80 per cent prediction accuracy — whether a person who reported symptoms was likely to have Covid-19. This is a significant improvement from other models that only evaluated self-reported symptoms.

As of June 7, 30,529 individuals had enrolled in the study, with representation from every US state. Of these, 3,811 reported symptoms, 54 tested positive for the coronavirus, and 279 tested negative.

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The team noted in the study that more sleep and less activity than an individual’s normal levels were significant factors in predicting coronavirus infection.

The DETECT team is now actively recruiting more participants to arrive at a conclusion.

The preliminary study was published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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Published on October 30, 2020
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