Test strategy revolution? Whatsapp now detects Covid cough


February 17, 2022 – 1:46 p.m Clock

by Ingo Jacobs

Cough into your smartphone instead of having an uncomfortable stick pushed down your nose or throat: Whatsapp users have been able to do a corona test via the popular messenger for a few days. A voice message with the test subject’s cough is sent to a special number. The audio file is then immediately analyzed by artificial intelligence and a test result is spit out. However, the system only exists in the Argentine capital for the time being. In tests, it showed a good hit rate.

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Chatbot service “Boti” detects Covid

Corona, I cough something for you, or what? Yes, because a simple coughing sound is now enough to be tested for Covid disease in Buenos Aires. And it works like this: A cough can be sent to the artificial intelligence called IATos via an official chatbot WhatsApp service “Boti” in the Argentine capital. If IATos finds matches to a typical Covid cough, the caller will be advised to take a rapid test either themselves or at a testing center.

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Artificial intelligence trained with 140,000 audio files

The young engineer David Pizzo and Santiago Esteban, secretary in the Argentine Ministry of Health, were in charge of the project. As early as December 2020, scientists began collecting coughing sounds from patients and isolating certain audio patterns. In order to train the recognition system of the artificial intelligence, over 140,000 additional audio files from people with positive or negative Covid 19 diagnoses were then collected via the “Boti” system in the test centers in Buenos Aires after the PCR tests had been carried out.

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Relieve test centers and identify more sick people

A pilot test took place before the system was officially made available to the public a few days ago. IATos achieved a hit probability of 86 percent. But what is the point of the system if, in case of doubt, the test person is then advised to take a medical test anyway? Those responsible in the city want to relieve the test centers by screening out negative cases in advance and identifying Covid sufferers who would otherwise not have taken a test.

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