Sniffer dogs could be trained to detect coronavirus

Scientists are hoping that sniffer dogs could be the key to the way out of the pandemic

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) is hoping to prove that coronavirus can be detected through odour and that sniffer dogs could be trained to confirm positive cases.

Working alongside the Medical Detection Dogs group among others, LSHTM has launched an Indiegogo page to raise £1 million for the research that, if successful, could see one dog test 250 people per hour for the virus.

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Professor James Logan Head of Department of Disease Control at LSHTM explains: “We’ve been doing research on the way that infection changes body odour, we’ve been researching this for ten to 15 years.”

Sniffer dogs could be trained to detect coronavirusSniffer dogs could be trained to detect coronavirus
Sniffer dogs could be trained to detect coronavirus | PA (Press Association)

The team had only last year published work that proved the disease Malaria was detectable in body odour, and that trained dogs were able to recognise malaria sufferers easily and quickly.

The fundraising page is hoping to raise £1 million for the research.

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Professor Logan continued: “Half of the amount will go into the first stage. We need to go into hospitals to collect samples.

“We are hoping to collect from 3,000 people across hospitals, those who do have coronavirus and those who do not.

“We will then process the samples, do a chemical analysis to work out what the chemical odours are, and then we can send them to the medical detection dogs.”

There are six dogs that were used in the malarial work by the LSHTM and these dogs will be used again to learn to detect coronavirus through smell.

Professor Logan said: “The other half of the funding will be used to scale up and work out how to deploy the dog, with each dog able to go through 250 people per hour.

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It is not certain that the tests will be successful, though the LSHTM has tested other respiratory diseases before, and the Professor claims that there is “no reason to think it would not be similar” although he cautions: “with a brand new disease, no one knows.”

An added benefit should the research be successful includes the speed that the new canine tests could be put in place, with training the dogs only taking a few weeks.

Professor Logan concluded: “We see their use primarily in airports and ports and all other entry points when lockdown lifts and travel becomes possible again, however, it depends at what point the country is in when we are ready to go.”

To donate to the research, click here.

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