As the coronavirus outbreak continues to sweep across the globe with no vaccine, researchers are now looking if ‘man’s best friend’, a dog can contribute to detecting the COVID-19 in an individual. Medical Detection Dogs has collaborated with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Durham University, to mobilise a team that can prove that dogs can be trained to detect the disease. According to the official website, dogs who will be searching for coronavirus will be trained in the same way as those dogs the organisation has already trained to detect other diseases including cancer, Parkinson’s and other bacterial infections. The CEO and Co-Founder of Medical Detection Dogs, Dr Claire Guest has said that in principle, animals can be used to check COVID-19. Once these dogs are trained, they could also be used to identify travellers that enter a country after contracting the virus or can be deployed in other public spaces.
Guest said, “In principle, we’re sure that dogs could detect COVID-19. We are now looking into how we can safely catch the odour of the virus from patients and present it to the dogs.”
She added, “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. This would be fast, effective and non-invasive and make sure the limited NHS testing resources are only used where they are really needed.”
2/2 #CV19 dogs FAQ: HOW CAN DOGS ACTUALLY HELP?— Medical Detection Dogs (@MedDetectDogs) April 7, 2020
Detection dogs will passively screen individuals, and tell handlers if they've detected the virus. This will be confirmed by a medical test meaning NHS testing resources are only used where really needed.https://t.co/xuheY86pXG pic.twitter.com/QOZB5KrWJ1
Professor James Logan, Head of Department of Disease Control at The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Director of ARCTEC has said that respiratory diseases like the ones caused by coronavirus infections, tend to change the body odour of the carrier. Therefore, “there is a very high chance” that dogs will be able to detect that. This would also make up for a revolutionary diagnostic tool in the world’s fight against COVID-19 outbreak. The previous work by researchers has even revealed that dogs, when trained, are quick to detect human odours with malarial infections with high accuracy.
According to official website, Logan said, "We know that other respiratory diseases like COVID-19, change our body odour so there is a very high chance that dogs will be able to detect it. This new diagnostic tool could revolutionise our response to COVID-19 in the short term, but particularly in the months to come, and could be profoundly impactful.”