King’s launch a symptom tracking app to help fight coronavirus

“The more of the public that also use the app, the better the real-time data we will have to combat the outbreak”

On Tuesday, King’s launched a symptom tracking app, enabling the public to help in the fight against coronavirus by taking one minute a day to self-report on whether they have symptoms.

King’s launched the app in collaboration with health data science company ZOE, and researchers at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals, aiming to slow the spread of coronavirus by letting researchers identify how fast the disease is spreading in an area, the high-risk areas in the UK, and who is most at risk from COVID-19 by gathering more data on underlying health conditions.

The app, created in just three days, has already been downloaded 750,000 times, and is currently being installed at a rate of 50,000 times an hour. It’s now the third most popular app in Apple’s UK store, and the second in Google Play’s new releases chart.

King’s enlisted the help of around 5,000 twins and their families. They will be using the app to track their symptoms as they progress, mapping the disease’s progression in real time.

The twins will record key metrics about their health every day, including taking their temperature, and recording symptoms such as tiredness, coughing, breathing problems and headaches.

Twins who show symptoms will be sent home-testing kits to help researchers better understand what symptoms are part of coronavirus.

The researchers will compare genetically identical twins with non-identical twins (who are related as ordinary siblings), enabling them to “separate the effects of genes from environmental factors such as diet, lifestyle, previous illnesses and infections, and the microbes within the gut (microbiome).”

Although members of the public will not receive testing kits, they are asked to take one minute to self-report on their health daily. If they report symptoms, they will be asked a short series of questions.

A third-year War Studies student who has been using the app said “it’s really simple to use, the first time you use it you have to enter a few details like your name, date of birth, address and so on, plus a little bit about your medical history, like if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.

“If you’re feeling well it takes 10 seconds a day to report that. If you feel a bit under the weather you can report that really quickly by answering a few yes/no questions about your health, such as whether you have a temperature, feel tired, stuff like that.

“I’ve never taken part in health research before, but we really need to understand coronavirus better, and the quicker we get that understanding the more lives are going to be saved, so that’s why I’ve signed up.

“If me spending a minute of my day can help save lives it’s well worth it and I’d encourage anyone thinking of signing up to just try it out, it’s something practical we can all do to help fight coronavirus.

“I think in these uncertain times it’s good to focus on what you can control, and for me using the app is one thing within my control that I know can help protect others, it’s a thing I’m doing to contribute to the data we all need so the NHS can better protect my family, friends, and everyone in our society.”

King’s researchers believe the study will provide critical information about how the disease progresses in different people, and explain why some experience mild symptoms while others experience severe or fatal outcomes.

Professor Tim Spector, one of the lead researchers, said: “These are worrying times for everyone. Our twins are fantastically committed, enthusiastic health research participants who have already been studied in unprecedented detail, putting us in a unique position to provide vital answers to support the global fight against COVID-19.

“The more of the public that also use the app, the better the real-time data we will have to combat the outbreak in this country.”

If you want to take part, you can download the app here.

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