You may be able to listen to an individual animal’s cough and guess whether it is sick, but can you pick out the sick animals in a building full of hogs? Researchers at Catholic University in Belgium claim to have developed computer software to do just that.

The computer program, according to the researchers, can differentiate between a regular cough and that of a sick pig, and even help diagnose what the illness is. According to a report in New Scientist magazine, the Belgian researchers created a database of more than 5,000 different pig sounds. The software compares the sounds from a hog building with those in its database and, based on frequency bands, can tell which sound is a cough. It issues a cough warning if the number of coughs exceeds a certain limit, in order to catch the truly sick pigs.

Initial study results show that the program successfully diagnosed 92 percent of coughs. The group now is working with veterinarians to build a database of noises made by sick animals. For example, a certain wet or dry cough may indicate a specific disease. Daniel Berckmans, head of the team, also says they are looking at infrared videos of the pigs to see if the coughs are related to body temperature and other signs.

The report also says that a Belgian company is trying to create a program to link the software to a building’s climate-control system. The device would warn that medical attention may be required and automatically adjust the temperature.