With one cough, a simple and inexpensive new smartphone technology can accurately identify respiratory diseases.

The ResApp technology, developed at The University of Queensland (UQ), records a patient’s cough on a smartphone and analyses the sound to diagnose and measure the severity of a range of chronic and acute diseases, including asthma, pneumonia, bronchiolitis, croup and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Associate Professor Udantha Abeyratne and his team at UQ’s School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering worked closely with a team of biomedical engineers, paediatricians and respiratory physicians to develop the diagnostic tool.

The technology’s machine learning approach uses highly-acccurate algorithms to diagnose disease from cough and respiratory sounds using a standard smartphone microphone, without the need for additional hardware, accessories, sensor attachments or a network connection.

ResApp can also analyse other measurements and symptoms, such as fever and runny nose.

Easy-to-use, it has the potential to provide doctors – and almost every home and village in the world – with the means to quickly diagnose and manage potentially life-threatening diseases.

The research

In 2009, Associate Professor Abeyratne and his team were developing sound analysis technology to detect respiratory conditions such as sleep apnoea.

UQ’s technology transfer company UniQuest recognised the potential of Associate Professor Abeyratne’s research, as did the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which selected it for funding as part of its global initiative to reduce millions of child deaths in developing countries from pneumonia.

This strong support enabled Associate Professor Abeyratne’s team to further develop the technology and create the respiratory disease diagnostic tool.

Global impact

Pneumonia kills one child in the world every 30 seconds and is one of the three major diseases in the elderly. Respiratory disease accounts for more than 700 million doctor consultations every year across the world, and COPD is the third-leading cause of death worldwide after heart disease and cancer. Bronchiolitis is the leading cause of hospitalisation of infants under six months, and asthma affects an estimated 10 per cent of the world’s population.

Early intervention has the potential to significantly improve health outcomes and reduce the economic impact of these diseases.

Most respiratory illnesses are currently diagnosed using stethoscope, respiratory laboratory tests, imaging (X-ray, CT), blood and/or sputum tests, and are time consuming and expensive.

ResApp’s respiratory diagnostic technology has shown to be over 90% accurate in detecting a number of respiratory diseases.

The path to commercialisation

Recognising the potential to significantly improve healthcare on a global scale, UniQuest licensed the ResApp technology in September 2014.

It then created startup ResApp Health Ltd to commercialise this versatile, affordable, smartphone-based acute respiratory disease diagnostic test – ResAppDx-EU.

With the support of UniQuest, this digital healthcare solution has attracted global interest and won many innovation awards.

Since listing on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) in mid-2015, ResApp Health has gone on to raise more than $AUD29 million to fund the technology’s development.

Clinical studies in Australia and the US have demonstrated accurate diagnosis of lower respiratory tract disease, upper respiratory tract infection, pneumonia, bronchiolitis, croup, asthma exacerbation/reactive airway disease, COPD, COPD exacerbation and obstructive sleep apnoea.

ResAppDx-EU is now CE Marked in the European Union and approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia.

In 2020, ResAppDx-EU was used at a federal government-funded COVID-19 respiratory clinic in Brisbane, Australia. The technology was used by doctors at the clinic to triage patients who presented with respiratory symptoms, helping identify illnesses such as lower respiratory tract infections, pheumonia, as well as asthma and COPD exacerbations.

Dr Evan Jones, Director of Health Hub Doctors Morayfield and Adjunct Associate Professor of the University of the Sunshine Coast, said ResAppDx is a revolutionary tool for triaging respiratory patients.

“Our clinicians have found the test very useful in both confirming their suspected diagnosis as well as identifying cases otherwise not detected by a physical examination,” he said.

designing technology icon

Sector

Health and Medicine

Information Systems and Computational Science

impact-inventor

Innovator

Associate Professor
Udantha Abeyratne
UQ Faculty of Engineering, Architecture and Information Technology

Impact-overview

Overview

A smartphone app helping doctors and patients breathe easier

Commercialisation

Licensed IP
Start-up company