The process of training dogs to ‘sniff’ out symptoms of COVID-19 before they appear in humans has begun in the United Kingdom.
The London Mail reports that trials to see how well the process works are to commence soon.
The landmark trials are being supported by the UK government to the tune of £500,000 under its funding of vital research into early methods of detecting the virus.
If successful, the dogs could be used to sniff out up to 250 persons in an hour in a bid to ramp up testing.
The dogs comprise of a mixture of Labradors and Cocker Spaniels, and can already identify deadly diseases, including cancer, malaria, and Parkinson’s disease.
The canines will now undergo intensive training to spot the coronavirus before the symptoms start manifesting.
The training includes using samples of people infected with COVID-19 and those who are uninfected, as some respiratory diseases are known to bring about a change in body odour.
Research shows that the dogs are able to detect the odour of diseases at the equivalent dilution of one teaspoon of sugar in an astonishing two Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The first phase of the trials will be conducted by researchers at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in collaboration with the charity, Medical Detection Dogs (MDD) and Durham University.
Professor James Logan, head of the department of disease control at the LSHTM, said:
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 COVID-19.”
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