Representational Image
Representational Image
BL Soni

On the occasion of Ganesh Chathurthi, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has taken one more step ahead by signing an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with an Israeli-based startup company, Vocalis Health for starting screening of suspected Covid-19 patients with their voice samples through artificial intelligence (AI) from Wednesday.

Senior officials said the Vocalis Health is collecting voice samples of people all across the globe as an initiative to develop a diagnostic tool to identify Covid-19 infected people. Even though the concept is new, several countries like the US and Israel are using it. Moreover people can submit their voice samples for analysis on their official website. 

Suresh Kakani, additional Municipal Commissioner, BMC said nearly 2,000 suspected or high-risk contacts patients at NESCO Jumbo centres will undergo this first-of-its-kind initiative where Vocalis Health will be taking voice samples in the next three days. 

“We have now moved forward using voice biomarkers to detect SARS-COV-2 virus within 30 seconds, for which we have signed an MOU on Saturday and the study will start from Wednesday under the supervision of the ethics committee of Dr RN Cooper Hospital,” he said.

Earlier on August 4 FPJ had reported that it will be an 'non-invasive voice sample analysis' of positive and suspected Covid patients, which is expected to detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus in 30 seconds.

Dr Neelam Andrade, Dean, Nair Dental Hospital and NESCO in-charge, said this would be the first time voice biomarkers would be used to identify Covid-positive patients within 30 seconds. Currently, this study will be done across India with a sample size of 10,000, of which 2,000 are from Mumbai. The three groups selected for this study will include Covid-positive, suspected and negative patients. “We will record patients' voices by asking them to count from 50 to 70 and these samples will be analysed using artificial intelligence. If the patient's audio point is 0.05, they are covid-positive, but if it is above 0.08, it indicates a severe case, requiring immediate treatment,” she said.

“This study is based on the hypothesis that the infection may affect the voice of individuals, given the interdependence between the respiratory and speech systems in the body. The organs used for speech — the lungs, trachea, larynx (voice box), the mouth and nose — are also used for breathing, which is why we sound raspy or ‘stuffed-up’ when we have a cold or flu," she said. 

“To speak, air from the lungs is pushed out and shaped by our vocal apparatus into specific sounds as it moves toward our mouths in a coordinated process. To simplify somewhat, we can measure the acoustic signatures of distinct vowels, consonants, pitch, and other related aspects in the soundwaves of our emitted speech and, in turn, make predictions about the shape and state of the vocal tract that produced it,” she explained.

Moreover, these voices will be run through wavelengths, which will show three colours -- red, yellow and green -- based on which patients will be categorised as negative, moderate and severe cases. However, for confirmation, the gold standard RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) will also be carried out. “As this technology is in the initial stage, we need to cross-check results. So, even if a person has tested negative for the virus, he/she will have to undergo voice analysis to authenticate the technology. It will take 2-3 months to conclude the study,” said Kakani.

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