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MOH Researchers Are Developing An AI Programme That Detects Covid-19 Through Cough Sounds

While countries like Thailand used armpit sweat to test for Covid-19 infections, China introducing anal swab tests, and Cambodia successfully trained dogs to sniff out the virus, Malaysia isn't going to fall behind in technological and scientific advancements to fight Covid-19.

Recently, researchers have developed a new AI programme to detect and identify Covid-19 infection through the sound of a person's cough. The programme is being worked on by a group of researchers from the Institute of Clinical Research (ICR) under the Health Ministry and AI experts from the Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak.

The programme is still undergoing testing stages of recording and storing cough data samples, but it is expected to be available by June 2022! Apparently, the method is reported to have a 90% accuracy and will also be able to detect asymptomatic cases.

The programme's lead researcher, William Law Kian Boon said, based on overseas researches, asymptomatic cases will 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,” Law said.

“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,” he added.

The team of researchers are currently recruiting volunteers for audio samples and targets to collect at least 2,400 samples at the Covid-19 Assessment Centre at KL soon. Applicants will need to answer a questionnaire on basic information like their gender, age, vaccination status, health status and history, if they are taking medication, and if they've contracted the Covid-19 virus before

“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 will then receive their results within 5 to 10 minutes via SMS.


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