King’s College London has launched an app enabling people to report symptoms of Covid-19 so that the progression of the disease can be tracked in real time.

Around 5,000 twins and their families across the UK have been recruited from the TwinsUK cohort study to trial the app.

The aim is to help slow the outbreak of Covid-19 by helping researchers determine how fast the virus is spreading in a particular area, identify high-risk areas in the country and who is most at risk, by better understanding symptoms linked to underlying health conditions.

Twins using the app will record information about their health on a daily basis, including temperature, tiredness and symptoms such as coughing, breathing problems or headaches.

Those showing signs of Covid-19 will be sent a home testing kit to determine what symptoms truly correspond to the coronavirus infection.

The app will be also available to the general public without the home testing component.

Comparing genetically identical twins with non-identical twins, who are as related as regular siblings, will enable researchers to separate the effects of genes from environmental factors such as diet, lifestyle, previous illnesses and infections, and the microbes within the gut (microbiome).

Researchers believe that the data from the study will reveal important information about the symptoms and progress of the Covid-19 infection in different people, and why some go on to develop more severe or fatal disease while others have only mild symptoms.

They also say it will help the urgent clinical need to distinguish mild coronavirus symptoms from seasonal coughs and colds, which may be leading people to unnecessarily self-isolate when they aren’t infected or inadvertently go out and spread the disease when they are.

The free monitoring app has been developed as a partnership between researchers at King’s and health data science company ZOE. It will be widely available to health staff and the general public who wish to contribute to this research.

It will also be used by other large population studies in the UK and US.

Professor Spector said: “These are worrying times for everyone. Our twins are fantastically committed, enthusiastic health research participants who have already been studied in unprecedented detail, putting us in a unique position to provide vital answers to support the global fight against Covid-19.

“The more of the public that also use the app, the better the real-time data we will have to combat the outbreak in this country.”

The TwinsUK COVID-19 research study is funded by King’s College London, ZOE Global Ltd, the CDRF charity, and the National Institute of Health Research Guy’s and St Thomas’ Biomedical Research Centre. Any data gathered from the app and study will be used strictly for public health or academic research and will not be used commercially or sold.

This follows the news that NHSX is in the process of developing its own contact tracking app to monitor the spread of coronavirus.

The app, which would operate on an opt-in basis, would alert people to new cases in their area as well as allowing people to input their own symptoms, with the information shared with the relevant authorities.

Disclaimer: Digital Health News is a news service run by a team of journalists and therefore cannot answer questions about the app. Please direct questions to the Covid symptom tracker website