Whether dogs can effectively sniff out the presence of the coronavirus in humans is being trialed in the United Kingdom.
The Covid-19 pandemic is currently sweeping the world, with England among the countries with the highest death and infection rates.
Six dogs – a selection of Labradors and Cocker spaniels – will be given samples of the odour of patients with the virus. The samples will be drawn from London hospitals. The dogs will then be taught to recognise the smell and how it differs from that of people without the virus.
The British government have allowed £500,000 in funding for the trials. The dogs could, reportedly, screen 200-plus people each hour.
Durham University, charity Medical Detection Dogs and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine will lead the research.
“They have the potential to help by quickly screening people, which could be vital in the future. We are sure our dogs will be able to find the odour of Covid-19 and we will then move into a second phase to test them in live situations, following which we hope to work with other agencies to train more dogs for deployment,” said co-founder and chief executive of Medical Detection Dogs, doctor Claire Guest.
“We are incredibly proud that a dog’s nose could once again save many lives.”
‘Approach could revolutionise how we detect the virus’
Head of the department of disease control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine professor James Logan, added: “If successful, this approach could revolutionise how we detect the virus, with the potential to screen high numbers of people.”
Innovation minister James Bethell echoed Logan’s sentiment: “Bio-detection dogs already detect specific cancers and we believe this innovation might provide speedy results as part of our wider testing strategy. Accuracy is essential so this trial will tell us whether ‘Covid dogs’ can reliably detect the virus and stop it spreading.”
In 2015, researchers in Italy trained two German Shepherd dogs to detect chemicals linked to prostate cancer in urine samples. The results were correct approximately 90 percent of the time.
Three years later, researchers revealed data that showed dogs could detect malaria by sniffing socks.