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App that listens to sound of cough could diagnose severe type of pneumonia

Technology listens out for signs of community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) from a person’s cough, alongside details of symptoms.

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Person coughing

Scientists have developed an app that is capable of diagnosing the most common type of pneumonia simply by listening to the sound of a person’s cough.

People can submit five cough recordings and details of symptoms to a smartphone-based algorithm, which can determine whether they might have community-acquired pneumonia (CAP).

The infection is typically challenging to diagnose, usually requiring a clinical examination to listen to the patient’s lungs with a stethoscope and sometimes chest X-rays as well.

But researchers from Curtin University in Australia claim the tool they have developed takes less than one minute to provide a result and does not require medically trained assistance.

According to a paper published in the British Journal of General Practice, tests on 322 participants – 159 of which have CAP – suggest that the app is 85% accurate.

Those behind the project believe such technology is vital to carrying out remote consultations with GPs, particularly during the pandemic.

Dr Paul Porter, lead author, said: “We have developed a method that agrees with expert diagnosis of community acquired pneumonia while not requiring auscultation or radiology.

“Diagnosing respiratory diseases can be challenging, particularly in circumstances where an examination is not possible such as in telehealth.

“This technology solves a major obstacle in the provision of respiratory healthcare during telehealth and digital consultations.”

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