Home Monitoring Study for Lung Infections Gets Funding Boost in UK

Machine learning may detect early infection signs from wearable device data

Andrea Lobo, PhD avatar

by Andrea Lobo, PhD |

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The U.K. National Institute for Health and Care Research awarded £1.5 million (about $1.8 million) for research on an at-home monitoring system for cystic fibrosis (CF) patients.

The study will start in early 2023 and enroll patients across the U.K., who will use small wearable devices to collect health measurements. Then, machine learning technology will help detect early signs of lung infections.

“These studies are incredibly exciting. They have the potential to provide both immediate and long-term benefit to people living with chronic and debilitating lung conditions,” Andres Floto, PhD, professor at the University of Cambridge and leader of the research team, said in a press release.

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Home Monitoring in CF May Help Detect Pulmonary Exacerbations

Technology may detect worsening lung function up to 10 days before symptoms

People with CF have frequent medical appointments to help monitor their disease and are at risk of prolonged hospitalization due to lung infections.

The research team at Royal Papworth Hospital and the University of Cambridge has shown that combining home monitoring with machine learning can help detect the worsening of lung function in CF up to 10 days before symptoms show up. FitBits and pulse oximeters were used to monitor blood oxygen levels, lung function, and other critical health parameters. Results were uploaded digitally using the Breathe RM platform, which uses an algorithm to detect signs of lung infections.

“By detecting infections before symptoms appear, this technology could enable patients to start treatment earlier before they become seriously unwell, avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions and the massive disruption to their lives,” said Catherine Kettleborough, PhD, leader of the LifeArc Chronic Respiratory Infection Translational Challenge.

“This new technology has the potential to transform how people living with chronic lung conditions like bronchiectasis [a condition where the lung airways are damaged, becoming widened and scarred over time] and cystic fibrosis monitor and manage their condition,” Kettleborough added.

By reducing hospital admissions and outpatient appointments, the technology could also provide substantial savings to the U.K. National Health System (NHS), according to Floto.

The researchers now expect to expand its use to people with bronchiectasis. The study will enroll up to 500 CF and bronchiectasis patients.

“It is a unique opportunity to empower people to take control of their own health and reduce the impact the disease has on their daily life, in turn improving their quality of care and saving time and money for the NHS,” Floto said.

The funding is awarded through the NHS Transformation Directorate’s AI Lab’s AI in Health and Care Award, which supports artificial intelligence solutions from their initial development to clinical implementation.

The research team has also received £1.9 million (around $2.3 million) from LifeArc’s charity, which will help develop the technology to commercial standards and make the software available to patients worldwide.

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