Science

Internet searches for GI symptoms can help identify Covid-19 hotspots: Study

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on September 13, 2020 Published on September 13, 2020

A study has found that searches on 'ageusia,' 'loss of appetite' and 'diarrhoea' were the most common symptoms correlating strongly with the rise in cases of Covid-19 in five high-incidence states in the US.

According to the study searches for certain gastrointestinal symptoms correlated strongly with rise in Covid-19 cases

Mapping Internet searches for certain gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms can help in predicting Covid-19 hotspots, according to researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The researchers conducted a study comparing the volume of internet searches on certain GI symptoms with the reported incidence of Covid-19 in 15 states across the US between January 20 and April 20, 2020.

According to an official release, the study found that searches on "ageusia," "loss of appetite" and "diarrhoea" were the most common symptoms correlating strongly with the rise in cases of Covid-19 in five high-incidence states.

“As the lag time between search volume and Covid-19 incidence increased, correlation increased, with the strongest relationship at three to four weeks,” wrote Kyle Staller, MD, MPH, one of the lead researchers of the study in an official post.

“Patients with Covid-19 often report gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms such as abdominal pain and diarrhoea,” he added.

A research letter published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, said during the first weeks of the pandemic in the US, online searches about certain GI symptoms correlated with the incidence of Covid-19 in five states with a high burden.

The researchers compared the search volume for each of the GI symptoms with the reported incidence of Covid-19 in 15 states between January 20 and April 20, 2020.

In most of the states studied, online searches for "ageusia," "loss of appetite" and "diarrhoea" increased four weeks prior to the rise in Covid-19 cases.

Researchers had used Google Trends to detail internet searches and the Harvard Dataverse website to identify the number of incidences across states. They had also made use of previous research on Covid-19 to identify common GI symptoms.

A research letter based on the study has been published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

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Published on September 13, 2020
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