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Dogs May Be Trained to Sniff Out Coronavirus to Help Stop the Spread

by Eben Diskin Apr 16, 2020

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) is working to prove that dogs can be trained to assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Recently, canines were trained to detect malaria, and now the same team at LSHTM is starting to train dogs to provide a quick, non-invasive coronavirus diagnosis.

Researchers believe that dogs could serve as a useful and much-needed supplement to coronavirus testing, becoming familiar with the virus’s scent, and detecting subtle changes in patients’ skin temperatures.

According to Professor James Logan, Head of the Department of Disease Control at LSHTM, “Our previous work demonstrated that dogs can detect odors from humans with a malaria infection with extremely high accuracy — above the World Health Organization standards for a diagnostic. It’s early days for COVID-19 odor detection. We do not know if COVID-19 has a specific odor yet, but we know that other respiratory diseases change our body odor so there is a chance that it does. And if it does dogs will be able to detect it. This new diagnostic tool could revolutionize our response to COVID-19.”

“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,” said Dr. Claire Guest, CEO and co-founder of Medical Detection Dogs. “This would be fast, effective and non-invasive and make sure the limited NHS testing resources are only used where they are really needed.”

Much like bomb-sniffing, dogs could be used to identify infected passengers at airports and other public places. This would be crucial for keeping the virus under control after the first wave has been suppressed.

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