A Boston-based tech company is helping researchers investigate whether or not fitness trackers hold the early clues of a coronavirus infection. The medical study comes after some users reported changes in their metrics days before experiencing symptoms.
Those behind the fitness tracker WHOOP, which was founded at Harvard University and is now based in Boston, are partnering with researchers from the Cleveland Clinic and CQ University in Australia. The study will look for patterns between WHOOP users' respiratory rates and COVID-19 infections.
WHOOP founder and CEO Will Ahmed said the company started tracking COVID-19 in the app back in March and they have already had hundreds of users report testing positive. If a user opts into participating in the study, researchers will be able to view their data before, during and after the infection.
"What we've seen so far is your respiratory rate two to three days before symptoms will be quite elevated," Ahmed said.
Brian Eisenberg, 37, of New York, noticed a change in his WHOOP data before he was diagnosed with COVID-19 the week of March 9. In the days before his temperature spiked, his recovery score, an aggregate metric, dropped significantly.
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Eisenberg also noticed a change in his heart rate variability among other metrics.
"It was to the point where I couldn't even complete my workout. At the time I didn't think anything of it, but in retrospect, there has to be some sort of correlation," Eisenberg said.
WHOOP is not an approved medical device, but users hope the research will shed new light on the virus so doctors can run with it.
"Because people are asymptomatic, you want any type of indicator or suggestion that you may have something going on in your body," Ahmed said. "And we want to do what we can to help."
WHOOP is not the only fitness tracker looking into this. Several other wearable devices are being used in various coronavirus-related studies. WHOOP hopes to publish its data in the next 6 to 8 weeks.