Medical sniffer dogs in Britain will be trained to sniff out coronavirus.
The charity Medical Detection Dogs is conducting trials in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Durham University to expand their dogs’ skill set beyond sniffing out malaria, cancer, low blood sugar, and Parkinson’s disease.
If the trials are successful, the dogs could be trained in six weeks to sniff out the disease in those with symptoms, with an accuracy rate above World Health Organization (WHO) standards.
Charity executive Dr Claire Guest 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.”
The Milton Keynes-based charity said that each disease has its own scent, which dogs can be trained to detect. The dogs can also detect changes in the temperature of a human’s skin and could tell if someone has a fever.
Durham University’s Professor Steve Lindsay said the dogs could also be used at the end of the outbreak to screen arrivals at airports.
“This would help prevent the re-emergence of the disease after we have brought the present epidemic under control,” Professor Lindsay said.
The charity is now looking for donations to help cover the costs of the programme, which potential supporters able to visit their website if they are interested in backing Medical Detection Dogs’ work.