Scientists are exploring whether dogs could be used to sniff out COVID-19 and help curb the spread of the disease.
The England-based charity, Medical Detection Dogs, has already trained canines to detect diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s and bacterial infections. Now it has joined forces with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Durham University—a team which recently proved that dogs could be trained to detect malaria.
Together they have begun preparations to intensively train dogs to detect COVID-19. Scientists say that the dogs could be ready in as little as six weeks to help provide a rapid, non-invasive diagnosis towards the tail end of the epidemic.
“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,” Medical Detection Dogs CEO and co-founder Dr Claire Guest said.
“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.”
The dogs will be trained to detect COVID-19 by sniffing samples in the charity’s training room and indicating when they have found it. Because they can also identify subtle changes in the temperature of the skin, the dogs could also be used to tell if someone has a fever.
The charity says that once trained, the dogs could be used to identify travellers entering the country infected with the virus or be deployed in other public spaces.