Dogs are going to be trained to try to sniff out the coronavirus before symptoms appear in humans, under trials launched with £500,000 of government funding.
Dogs have already been successfully trained to detect the odour of certain cancers, malaria and the Parkinson’s disease, and a new study will look at whether labradors and cocker spaniels can be trained to detect the Covid-19 in people.
Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine will carry out the first phase of a trial in collaboration with the Durham University and the charity Medical Detection Dogs.
The initial stage of the research will see odour samples collected from coronavirus patients in the London hospitals. Six specialist dogs will go for training to identify the virus from the samples.
Lord Bethell, the minister for innovation, said the government believed that the dogs might provide speedy results as part of our wider testing strategy.
The project’s lead researcher, Prof James Logan, head of the department of disease control at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that Our previous work has shown that malaria has a distinctive odour, and, with the Medical Detection Dogs, we successfully trained dogs to accurately detect malaria.
This combined with the knowledge that respiratory disease can change body odour, makes us hopeful that the dogs can also detect the Covid-19. we got succeed then this approach could revolutionise how we detect the virus, with the potential to screen high numbers of people.
Research gathered by the Medical Detection Dogs has suggested that the dogs could each screen up to 250 people an hour, and can be trained to detect the odour of disease at the equivalent dilution of one teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic-sized swimming pools of the water.
The charity and the universities submitted a proposal for a clinical trial to the government, it was accepted earlier this week and awarded £500,000 of funding.
Claire Guest, the co-founder and CEO of Medical Detection Dogs, said that, We are delighted that the government has given us the opportunity to demonstrate that dogs can play a role in the fight against Covid-19. Dogs can quickly be screening people, which could be vital in the future.
She added that We are sure our dogs will be able to find the odour of Covid-19. We are proud that a dog’s nose could once again save many lives.
Diabetic people use dogs to detect when their blood sugar levels are dangerously high or low. The charity Hypo Hounds trains dogs to smell the telltale changes on their owner’s breath or in their sweat. The pets can detect the problem earlier than the glucose monitor.
In 2015 the Italian researchers announced that they had trained two German shepherds to detect chemicals linked to prostate cancer in urine samples. Dogs were correct in approximately 90% of the cases.
In 2018 the researchers presented evidence that dogs could tell from sniffing someone’s socks whether they had malaria. After several months of training, a labrador and a labrador-retriever could tell whether a child had the disease even if they were not showing the symptoms.