Internet searches for gastrointestinal symptoms predicted coronovirus hot spots, researchers found


A study by the Massachusetts General Hospital found that Internet searches for gastrointestinal symptoms indicated weeks later that an increase in coronovirus cases preceded where epidemic hot spots would form.

The study, published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, used an approach used more than a decade ago to monitor epidemic influenza trends, which researchers felt COVID-19 could be used for.

Researchers found that patients regularly complained of similar GI symptoms, including aging, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, anorexia, diarrhea, and vomiting. Using Alphabet Inc.’s Google Trends Tools and Harvard Dataverse COVID-19 database, the researchers studied search trends during the period between January 20 and April 20.

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During that time, the results indicated that search trends correlated most strongly with cases in New York, New Jersey, California, Massachusetts, and Illinois, presenting higher case numbers three to four weeks later. The four-week time period produced the “strongest correlation between symptom finding volume and COVID-19 case volume”.

File photo – A Google search page depicting this photo taken in Brussels on May 30, 2014, is viewed through a magnifying glass.
(REUTERS / Francois Lenore)

“Our data underscore the importance of GI symptoms as a potential precursor to COVID-19 infection and suggest that Google Trends may be a valuable tool for epidemic prediction with GI manifestations,” Mas General’s Written by Kelly Staller, director of the gastrointestinal mobility laboratory. the study.

The main concern that the researchers noted is the lack of more specific factors in search results, such as “demographics, business factors, or Internet data patterns.”

“While our study provides information about popular search terms and their relation, it is important to note that the relative nature of Google Trends data does not allow defining specific increased interest limits.”

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According to Blumerug, scientists are investigating the traces of coronovirus in wastewater to identify locations where COVID-19 is spreading.