Scientists and a British charity are now working together to check if dogs could use their keen sense of smell to detect COVID-19.
Medical Detection Dogs will team up with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Durham University in northeast England to determine whether canines could help in diagnosing the pandemic infection.
The training follows previous research on the dogs’ capability to diagnose malaria using their sense of smell. It was believed that each disease triggers a distinct odor.
LSHTM disease control chief said dogs could detect malaria with “extremely high accuracy” and, as other respiratory diseases changed body odour, there was a “very high chance” it could also work with COVID-19.
The organizations said they had begun preparations to train dogs in six weeks “to help provide a rapid, non-invasive diagnosis towards the tail end of the epidemic.”
The charity group previously trained dogs to detect illnesses such as cancer, Parkinson’s, and bacterial infections by sniffing samples taken from patients.
Dogs could also detect if a person has a fever since they can notice subtle changes in skin temperature.
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Dogs being trained in London to detect COVID-19
“In principle, we’re sure that dogs could detect COVID-19,” said Claire Guest, founder, and chief executive of Medical Detection Dogs.
“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 (National Health Service) testing resources are only used where they are really needed.”
Steve Lindsay from Durham University said detection dogs could be deployed at the airport to identify people infected with COVID-19 quickly.
The pandemic coronavirus has now infected 532,003 people and killed 24,083 across the globe.