永利国际官方网址:Cough please

2019-03-07 10:09:14

By Matt Walker COMPUTERS with discerning ears could soon warn farmers when an animal is sick—and may even diagnose exactly what is wrong. Researchers at the Catholic University in Leuven in Belgium have developed software that can detect the wheezing and coughing of sick animals. The program could also be adapted to sound an alarm when animals are in pain. “The cough is the first indicator for the farmer and vet that there is something wrong in a group of animals,” says Daniel Berckmans, head of the Leuven team. But it takes a finely tuned ear and a lot of effort to monitor a herd of cattle or a barn containing hundreds of pigs. So Berckmans and his colleagues have written a computer program that does the job automatically, taking pigs as their first subject. They built a database of 5000 different sounds recorded from six pigs. It includes the usual repertoire of grunts and oinks, as well as background noises such as clanking metal gates and whirring fans. The software compares the sounds from the pigsty with those in the database: it spots coughs by looking for telltale energy levels in certain frequency bands. Tests with different groups of pigs are encouraging. The initial results, which will be presented to a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Columbus, Ohio, next month, show the program successfully diagnoses 92 per cent of coughs, Berckmans says. Pigs often begin coughing when moved into a new environment, he says. They soon stop if they are healthy, but sick pigs continue. So the program issues a warning only when the number and frequency of coughs exceeds a certain limit. And that’s only the start, say the researchers. By analysing each cough, they hope to distinguish between different illnesses. Berckmans’s group is working with vets to build up a database of noises made by sick animals to see if, say, wet or dry coughs are characteristic of particular diseases. They are also looking at infrared videos of the pigs to see if the coughs can be related to body temperature. Berckmans is especially interested in seeing whether the program can be adapted to reveal if animals are suffering. “Can we measure the sounds of a pig and come up with a database to see whether it is in pain? It sounds logical—and if you can do it for a pig you can do it for other animals,” he told New Scientist. Sydec, an audio company in St. Niklaas, Belgium,