Health trackers worn on the wrist could detect Covid-19 days before symptoms appear, says research.
The trackers monitor changes in skin temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate, and could be combined with artificial intelligence (AI) to provide a diagnosis, according to a new study.
A team writing in BMJ Open magazine tested the AVA bracelet, a fertility tracker people can buy online to track the best time to conceive.
It monitors respiratory rate, heart rate, heart rate variability, wrist skin temperature and blood flow.
The study followed 1,163 people under the age of 51 in Lichtenstein since the beginning of the pandemic.
They were asked to wear the AVA bracelet at night, with the device storing data every 10 seconds. Humans need to sleep at least four hours for it to work.
The wristbands were synced to a smartphone app, with people recording any activities that might impact results, such as: such as alcohol, prescription drugs, and recreational drugs.
They also recorded possible Covid 19 symptoms such as fever.
All participants in the study underwent regular rapid antibody testing for Covid, while those with symptoms also underwent a PCR swab test.
A total of 1.5 million hours of physiological data was recorded and Covid was confirmed in 127 subjects, 66 (52%) of whom had worn their device for at least 29 consecutive days and were included in the analysis.
The study found that there were significant changes in the body during the incubation period of infection, the period before symptoms appeared, the period when symptoms appeared, and during recovery compared to non-infection.
Overall, the tracker and computer algorithm identified 68% of Covid-19 positive people two days before their symptoms appeared.
The team, including those from the Cardiovascular Research Institute of Basel, concluded the research had limitations, including not capturing all Covid cases.
However, they added: “Wearable sensor technology can enable detection of Covid-19 during the pre-symptomatic period.
“Wearable sensor technology is an easy-to-use, cost-effective way for individuals to track their health and well-being during a pandemic.
“Our research shows how these devices, combined with artificial intelligence, can push the boundaries of personalized medicine and detect diseases before symptoms appear, potentially reducing virus transmission in communities.”
The algorithm is now being tested on a much larger group (20,000) of people in the Netherlands, with results expected later this year.