UK Begins Trials to Train Sniffer Dogs to Detect Covid-19 Patients

'Covid Dogs' is a government-funded project undertaken by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Embarking upon an innovative method to deal with novel coronavirus, the U.K. is training dogs to sniff out Covid-19 patients. The first phase of the trials is set to begin soon. The project is led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), along with the charity Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University. Medical Detection Dogs has already trained canines to detect certain forms of cancers, malaria and Parkinson's and now it is doing the same to detect Covid-19 patients.

Puppy and boy
Puppy and boy Pixabay

Medical Detection Dogs first announced its plans late in March, BBC reported. According to the charity, there is evidence that dogs are capable of screening up to 250 people per hour and can be trained to detect the odor of certain diseases at the equivalent dilution of one teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic-sized swimming pools of water. The attempt is to train the so-called COVID dogs, made up of Labradors and cocker spaniels to detect even asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus.

What Will Happen in First Phase of Trials?

In the first phase, the NHS staff will collect odor samples from coronavirus patients and those not infected by it. Six dogs will then be trained to identify the virus samples from the mix, BBC reported. The head of Medical Detection Dogs, Dr. Claire Guest, said that she is "sure our dogs will be able to find the odor of Covid-19".

If successful, the dogs will then move to the "second phase to test them in live situations, following which we hope to work with other agencies to train more dogs for deployment", she said. It's a government-backed project with a funding of £500,000 (or $605,185).

Advantages of This Strategy

Commenting on the trials, Minister of Innovation Lord Bethell said: "Bio-detection dogs already detect specific cancers and we believe this innovation might provide speedy results as part of our wider testing strategy".

If successful, the strategy will provide fast, effective and non-invasive screening for coronavirus. It'll also "make sure the limited NHS [National Health Service] testing resources are only used where they are really needed", said Guest said.

With a total of 236,711 cases, the U.K. is one of the worst-affected countries from the novel coronavirus pandemic. With the death toll of 33,998, its number of fatalities is the second-highest, behind only the U.S.A., which has reported a staggering number of 88,507 deaths.

Related topics : Coronavirus