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The wearable that knows if your cough is serious

C-mo Medical Solutions founders  (C-mo-Medical-Solutions)
C-mo Medical Solutions founders (C-mo-Medical-Solutions)

Earlier today (February 3), Cancer Research revealed that, if nothing changes, the number of people suffering with cancer will increase by a third in the UK by 2040.

Serious illnesses can go undetected until it’s an emergency, because people don’t recognise the signs of when something is serious.

A new cough-monitoring wearable, called C-mo, pioneered by Portuguese startup C-mo Medical Solutions, can help doctors understand what the cough means. This can lead to early diagnosis, timely treatment, and a potentially far more positive health outcome.

According to the NHS, a persistent cough is one that lasts more than three weeks and a chronic cough one lasting eight weeks or more.

“A chronic cough affects 10 per cent or 700m people worldwide,” said co-founder Diogo Tecelão. “The C-mo device is the only solution that monitors continuously and long term. The wearable is comfortable and sticks to the skin, leaving the user to carry out their activities with no restrictions - they can take showers and exercise while the sensors monitor the patient’s cough.”

It will analyse cough frequency, type, intensity, and the presence of wheezing during the cough. Patterns are also tracked and these can flag up underlying causes of a patient’s cough.

“For example, a patient’s body position lying down can be a common trigger for coughs in reflux disease,” he explained. “It can also detect cough patterns relating to physical activity, which could indicate asthma or COPD.”

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

Continuous monitoring means doctors can analyse the data over weeks, in real-time, to see how a cough persists or changes. Such a device could provide much-needed support to NHS patients over the next 20 years.

As it is worn all the time, the C-mo can correlate coughing patterns to physiological parameters, such as body temperature, enabling doctors to gather valuable information.

Having raised a seed round fund of €4.8 million (£4.3m), and finished a successful pilot on more than 200 patients, the company’s next step is to be approved as a medical device in the UK (UKCA UK Conformity Assessed), the FDA in the US, and in Europe (CE Mark). Once an official medical device, Tecelão has his sights set on the UK.

Tecelão says they have already spoken to some NHS doctors, with promising responses. “We have contacted some doctors from the NHS and all have shown their enthusiasm for this solution and believe it will add value to their clinical practice,” he said.

“If everything goes according to plan, we expect to come to the UK market in the second half of 2024.”

A nasty cough can be a sign of TB (Archive)
A nasty cough can be a sign of TB (Archive)

Can coughs signal serious illness?

Worldwide, breast and lung are the most common cancers and, for the latter, a cough lasting more than three weeks is a tell-tale sign something is amiss. A change to a cough is another clue there’s an illness lurking. Early diagnosis is key to stopping the cancer spreading, yet at least 20 per cent of cases are picked up at the emergency stage.

But it isn’t all just about cancer - coughs can detect a plethora of problems, from asthma, which affects 12 per cent of the UK population and 334m people worldwide, to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is a precursor to esophageal cancer, causing 8,000 deaths in the UK each year). Early diagnosis of GERD would save around 1,000 lives each year.

Are there any other devices to decode coughs?

There is already some tech on the market translating coughs into insights all focused on decoding the cough.

The VitaloJAK handbag-like device is usually worn for 24-hour periods.

An AI-driven app, Hyfe AI, is used by medical professionals and the public to track their coughs via a smartphone app - it recorded 946k coughs in January.

And the Cough Pro app helps people monitor their coughs, but it is not a medical device.

“There is an urgent need for fully automated cough-recording technology that continuously monitors patients in real-time,” stated the European Respiratory Society in their guidelines on the treatment of chronic coughs.