King’s College London has launched a COVID-19 symptom-tracking app in the UK. The aim is to help slow the outbreak by tracking in real time:
- How fast the virus is spreading geographically
- High-risk areas in the UK
- Who is most at risk, by better understanding symptoms linked to underlying health conditions
The app is free to use, and lets anyone record health information on a daily basis in less than one minute.
The app’s researchers have also recruited 5,000 twins and their families from TwinsUK to use the app and self-report daily on temperature, tiredness and symptoms such as coughing, breathing problems or headaches. Any participants showing signs of COVID-19 will be sent a home testing kit to better understand what symptoms truly correspond to the coronavirus infection. The app is also available to the general public without the home testing component of the study.
The data from the study will reveal important information about the symptoms and progress of COVID-19 infection in different people, and why some go on to develop more severe or fatal disease while others have only mild symptoms.
The study will support the urgent clinical need to distinguish mild coronavirus symptoms from seasonal coughs and colds, which may be leading people to unnecessarily self-isolate when they aren’t infected or inadvertently go out and spread the disease when they are.
TwinsUK was set up by Professor Tim Specter, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, in 1992. With 15,000 twins, aged 18 to 100, it is the UK’s largest adult twin registry and the most clinically detailed in the world.
Professor Tim Spector 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.”
The TwinsUK COVID-19 research study is funded by King’s College London, ZOE Global Ltd, the CDRF charity, and the National Institute of Health Research Guy’s and St Thomas’ Biomedical Research Centre. Any data gathered from the app and study will be used strictly for public health or academic research and will not be used commercially or sold.
Public health organisations, research institutions and other bodies are invited to collaborate in the research efforts.
Based in London and Boston, ZOE is a health data science company that was spun out from King’s in 2017. It was founded by Professor Spector, Jonathan Wolf and George Hadjigeorgiou.