Specially trained dogs have been tested to determine if they can smell the coronavirus in infected men and women, by a group of researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Durham University, and the Medical Detection Dogs organization.
LSHTM said at the end of last month they might be ready in six months to help give a noninvasive diagnosis, and they’re intensively coaching a group of dogs to smell the COVID-19 virus in people, even ones.
The researchers think that the dogs can supplement testing by screening for the virus accurately and quickly, potentially triaging around 250 people per hour.
Professor James Logan, Head of the Department of Disease Control in LSHTM and Director of ARCTIC, says: “Our previous work demonstrated that dogs could detect odors from individuals with a malaria infection with considerable accuracy — over the World Health Organization standards for a diagnostic.
“It is early days for COVID-19 odor detection. We do not know if COVID-19 has a particular odor yet, but we know so there is a possibility that it does, that our entire body odor changes. And if it does, dogs will be able to detect it. This new diagnostic instrument could revolutionize our response to COVID-19.”
Dogs looking for COVID-19 would be trained in precisely the same way as dogs trained to detect diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s, and conditions.
They are also able to detect fluctuations in the skin’s temperature, so if someone has a fever, they could also tell.
Dr. Claire Guest, CEO and Co-Founder of Medical Detection Dogs, states: “In principle, we’re confident that dogs could detect COVID-19. We are now looking at how we may capture the odor of the virus from individuals and present it to the puppies.
“The purpose is that dogs are going to have the ability to screen anybody, including those who are asymptomatic and tell us whether they have to be tested. This would be quick, effective, and noninvasive and be certain the restricted NHS testing tools are only used where they are required.”
Professor Steve Lindsay at Durham University says: “When the research is successful, we could use COVID-19 detection dogs in airports at the end of the epidemic to rapidly identify individuals carrying the virus. This would assist in preventing the re-emergence of the disease after we’ve brought the current epidemic under control.”