Published: 27th March 2020
UK charity Medical Detection Dogs trying to train dogs to smell coronavirus
Dogs would be trained in the same way as those already trained to detect diseases like cancer, Parkinson's and bacterial infections
A UK charity is working with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Durham University in an effort to train dogs to sniff out the novel coronavirus within six weeks to provide a rapid, non-invasive diagnosis, a media report said on Friday.
The charity, Medical Detection Dogs, which already does pioneering work in cancer research and diabetes detection, believes that dogs can smell coronavirus, a newspaper report said. "Dogs searching for COVID-19 would be trained in the same way as those dogs the charity has already trained to detect diseases like cancer, Parkinson's and bacterial infections by sniffing samples in the charity's training room and indicating when they have found it" the newspaper quoted Medical Detection Dogs as saying in a statement.
They (dogs) are also able to detect subtle changes in temperature of the skin, so could potentially tell if someone has a fever. Once trained, dogs could also be used to identify travellers entering the country infected with the virus or be deployed in other public spaces. Claire Guest, CEO and co-founder of the charity said, "In principle, we're sure that dogs could detect COVID-19. We are now looking into how we can safely catch the odour of the virus from patients and present it to the dogs. The aim is that dogs will be able to screen anyone, including those who are asymptomatic and tell us whether they need to be tested. This would be fast, effective and non-invasive and make sure the limited NHS testing resources are only used where they are really needed."
"Our previous work demonstrated that dogs can detect odours from humans with a malaria infection with extremely high accuracy, above the World Health Organisation standards for a diagnostic. "We know that other respiratory diseases like COVID-19, change our body odour so there is a very high chance that dogs will be able to detect it," a newspaper quoted Professor James Logan, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine as saying.
Professor Steve Lindsay at Durham University added, "If the research is successful, we could use COVID-19 detection dogs at airports at the end of the epidemic to rapidly identify people carrying the virus. This would help prevent the re-emergence of the disease after we have brought the present epidemic under control." A total of 11,812 people in the UK have ben infected with the novel coronavirus while 580 others died.