In a study from RMIT University in Melbourne, scientists found a new screening test app could help advance the early detection of Parkinson’s disease and severe COVID-19, improving the management of these illnesses.
The test can produce accurate results using just people’s voice recordings.
Millions of people worldwide have Parkinson’s, which is a degenerative brain condition that can be challenging to diagnose as symptoms vary among people.
Common symptoms include slow movement, tremor, rigidity and imbalance.
Currently, Parkinson’s is diagnosed through an evaluation by a neurologist that can take up to 90 minutes.
In the study, the new smartphone App records a person’s voice and takes just 10 seconds to reveal whether they may have Parkinson’s disease and should be referred to a neurologist.
The team says the easy-to-use screening test made it ideal to use in a national screening program.
The team developed a similar test for people with COVID-19 to reveal whether they need clinical attention, including hospitalization.
This research will allow a non-contact, easy-to-use and low-cost test that can be performed routinely anywhere in the world, where the clinicians can monitor their patients remotely.
It could also promote a community-wide screening program, reaching people who might not otherwise seek treatment until it’s too late.
The voice of people with Parkinson’s disease changes because of a combination of three symptoms: rigidity, tremor and slowness (known as bradykinesia).
Expert clinicians can identify these symptoms, but this assessment can be challenging due to the large natural differences in people’s voices.
In patients with pulmonary disease symptoms from COVID-19, there is also a change in the voice due to lung infection.
Prior to being used, the system is trained to identify the disease. Once trained, it performs an instantaneous analysis of the voice.
The software then compares the results against existing samples of voices of people with Parkinson’s against those who do not.
The team wants to perform a larger, observational study to detect the progression of Parkinson’s and pulmonary diseases.
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The study was conducted by Professor Dinesh Kumar et al and published in the IEEE Journal of Translational Engineering in Health and Medicine, IEEE Access and Computers in Biology and Medicine.
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