The dogs are being trained to sniff coronavirus due to a collaboration between Medical Detection Dogs charity, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Durham University. If the project turns out to be successful, these dogs could screen around 750 people an hour, as per the Mirror UK. Cancer, Parkinson's and malaria are some of the diseases for which medical detention dogs have been already trained to detect.
Head of the Department of Disease Control at LSHTM, Professor James Logan informed that there are six dogs ready to be trained for the project. Samples of fabric previously worn by coronavirus patients will be received by these dogs within a few weeks to see if there is any unique odour of COVID-19 that can be detected.
If COVID-19 is found to have a unique odour, it could be identified by rescue dogs by taking just half a second to do so after around eight weeks. Dr Claire Guest, founder of Medical Detection Dogs charity said hundreds of people cannot be tested at the same time when resources and testing kits are very low. Dogs can screen people quickly through which it can be evaluated those who need to be tested and self-isolated.
"They offer a fast, effective and non-invasive way to ensure limited NHS testing resources are used only where they are really needed. The dogs can help make a profound impact on the spread of this deadly disease. Their ability is incredible," he added.
Need to follow strict protocols as samples are highly infectious
Professor Logan informed that first, they need to establish whether there is a distinct odour of COVID-19 and if dogs can detect it. The two main samples that are going to be used are face masks and nylon because nylon is a very good fabric for collecting odour. As these samples will be highly infectious, they need to follow proper protocols in order to ensure everybody is safe.
"We know that other respiratory diseases change our body odour, and if there is a distinct odour, we are confident the dogs will detect it. We've done a lot of work with the dogs detecting malaria and found a high level of accuracy – above the World Health Organization standards for a diagnostic," he said.
The COVID dogs are going to look for infections if people have it. Through this information, doubtful people could be advised to isolate themselves. Later on, these dogs could also be used in schools or places with a large number of key workers.