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MOH Researchers Developing AI To Detect Covid-19 Through Sound Of Cough, To Be Available To Public Next Year


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As we get more and more advanced in our war against Covid-19, a number of technological and scientific advancements have made things easier.

Countries such as Thailand have used armpit sweat to test for the virus whilst China has introduced anal swab tests. Meanwhile, Cambodia has successfully trained dogs to sniff out Covid-19.

It was recently reported that researchers have developed a new artificial intelligence programme to detect and identify a Covid-19 infection through the sound of a person’s cough.

According to Berita Harian, the programme is being developed by a group of researchers from the Institute for Clinical Research (ICR) under the Health Ministry as well as artificial intelligence (AI) experts from the Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak.

It is currently in the testing stage of recording and storing cough data samples, is expected to be available in June next year. The method is reported to have a 90% accuracy and will also detect asymptomatic cases.



Additionally, its use will not incur financial costs to users who would only have to record the audio of their coughs on mobile devices, before submitting the clip to the programme’s website for analysis.

The programme’s lead researcher, William Law Kian Boon told Berita Harian that, based on overseas researches, asymptomatic cases still experience changes in cough sounds as Covid-19 is an upper respiratory tract infection.

“These changes (cough sounds) are difficult to detect through hearing tools or traditional methods, but they can be distinguished by a machine learning algorithm, which is part of the AI.”

He further explained that “To detect asymptomatic cases, we record cough sounds from Covid-19 patients and healthy persons then train the algorithm to make a comparison.”

“Data variation could improve the performances of algorithms in Covid-19 screenings even though every person had a different cough sound and that it could also be affected by various factors. Every person has a different cough sound. Gender, age, and type of illness are also part of the factors,” said Law.

That is why the algorithm would need to be trained with sufficient variations in order to represent the diversity of sound samples.

Law pointed out that the beta version of the program had been developed to carry out processes of recording and storing audio samples.

The research team is currently recruiting volunteers for audio samples and are targeting to collect 2,400 samples at the Covid-19 Assessment Centre around Kuala Lumpur soon.



To detect Covid-19 using the application, one would have to answer a questionnaire on information such as their gender, age, whether they had ever been infected with Covid-19, their vaccination status, their health status, history, and if they were taking medications.

“The system will then request the user to record a cough audio sample. He or she will need to cough three to five times continuously under 10 seconds to allow the programme to begin its analysis.”

“Users need to be in a relatively comfortable and quiet place to ensure the sound recorded is in high quality, as a noisy environment will influence the sound quality,” Law clarified.

Users will receive their results within five to 10 minutes via text message.

“This application can be used as a pre-screening method, we target that it can be accessible by the public in June next year,” he said.

Other ICR researchers involved in the project are its director, Dr Kalaiarasu Peariasamy, Law, Dr Mohd Aizuddin Abdul Rahman, Dr Mohan Dass Pathmanathan, Dr Kuan Pei Xuan, Dr Wong Xin Xi, Lauren Ooi Li Ting as well as Prof Patrick Then, director for the Centre for Digital Futures Swinburne Sarawak.


Also read: From Landmines To Covid-19! Cambodia Successfully Trains Dogs To Sniff Out The Covid-19 Virus

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