An iPhone application is in development by Australian and American doctors which analyses the sound of your coughs to provide a diagnosis of a cold, flu, pneumonia or any other respiratory disease that might be assailing you.

Different ailments have different effects on the lungs - coughs can be dry or wet, or "productive" or "non-productive", as Doctors put it - referring to mucus production. The software aims to save doctors time by reassuring non-serious but hypochondriac patients that they'll be fine but telling more urgent cases to "get thee to an A&E".

Healthy coughs are louder than ill coughs, and vibrating vocal chords and the aforementioned presence of mucus can indicate other symptoms worth investigating. In a similar way to how Shazam identifies music tracks, the app compares your cough to a database of both ill and healthy people of both sexes and various ages, weights and other variables.

The team behind it - STAR Analytical Services - reckons they'll need about 1000 patients in the database before the app can be reliable, and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is run by the former Microsoft CEO, has given the team a $100,000 grant to pursue the research further.

Whooping cough? There's an app for that.