Apple Watch might detect coronavirus infections even before symptoms appear

Apple Watch might detect coronavirus infections even before symptoms appear

One of the best features of the Apple Watch is the ability to save lives by passively monitoring health parameters. We’re used to seeing people tell stories about how the device saved their lives, and Apple often features those stories in its press conferences. Other wearables can and should deliver similar features, but it’s usually the Apple Watch that’s featured in such stories about life-saving incidents that involved a wearable gadget.

Going forward, the Apple Watch and some of its competitors might be able to pull off an incredible feat. According to two separate studies, the devices might detect coronavirus infections up to a week before COVID-19 symptoms appear.

One of the studies comes from Mount Sinai, where researchers have used the Apple Watch to detect subtle heartbeat changes that are correlated with the onset of an infection, like COVID-19. They discovered the Watch could predict the illness up to 7 days before people start feeling sick or a positive COVID-19 test arrives.

The researchers analyzed heart rate variability, which measures the variation in time between each heartbeat. The parameter can be used to measure how well the immune system is working. People infected with the novel coronavirus will experience lower heart rate variability or little variation between heartbeats.

“Our goal was to use tools to identify infections at the time of infection or before people knew they were sick,” Rob Hirten told CBS. Hirten is an assistant professor of medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

“We already knew that heart rate variability markers change as inflammation develops in the body, and Covid is an incredibly inflammatory event,” he added. “It allows us to predict that people are infected before they know it.”

The study, published in pre-print format at this link, enrolled 300 Mount Sinai healthcare workers from April 29th through September 29th. All of them wore Apple Watches, but Apple wasn’t directly involved in the process. Tim Cook highlighted the study in September…Read more>>