Wrist device detects COVID days before noticeable symptoms

July 28, 2022
Wrist device detects COVID days before noticeable symptoms

A commercially-available wearable was able to pick up minute changes in heart rate and skin temperature at least two days before the onset of COVID symptoms. The team of Canadian and European researchers behind the innovation believe monitoring of real-time heath data via wearable devices could facilitate the detection of COVID and – with a little tinkering – other infectious diseases.

The researchers had developed a COVID-detection algorithm which was programmed into a wrist-worn device known as the Ava bracelet. The bracelet is able to measure the wearer’s heart rate, breathing rate, skin temperature, heart rate variability, and blood flow, every ten seconds.

So far, the bracelet has only seen use as a fertility monitor, to be used at night.

Now, with the Ava bracelet, researchers studied changes to heart rate, heart rate variability, and wrist skin temperature, said to be early features of COVID-19 that precede noticeable symptoms. The study cohort consisted of over 100 participants who were confirmed to have COVID-19 – the machine-learning algorithm was trained on 70% of this cohort and then tested on the remaining 30%.

The researchers noted that the system accurately identified 68% of the positive COVID cases two whole days before any symptoms appeared.

According to the researchers: “Wearable sensor technology is an easy-to-use, low-cost method for enabling individuals to track their health and well-being during a pandemic. Our research shows how these devices, partnered with artificial intelligence, can push the boundaries of personalised medicine and detect illnesses prior to [symptom onset], potentially reducing virus transmission in communities.”

“That an existing medical device is able to be used in a different meaning [shows] that wearables have a promising future,” added researcher David Conen, an Associate Professor of Medicine at McMaster University in Ontario.

Conen said that the research team are now conducting a larger study testing the COVID-detection system in a larger cohort of 20,000 subjects, with results expected later this year.

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