Researchers in the U.K have been training dogs to sniff out coronavirus in humans even before the symptoms start to show off. In recent studies, it has been found that dogs can detect people with illnesses like malaria, cancer, and Parkinson’s.* The reason behind that is, each illness leaves a particular odor in a person, which these dogs are trained to sniff. Hoping for these same results, researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) are collaborating with Durham University and the charity Medical Detection Dogs to test this hypothesis for COVID-19 i.e Can dogs sniff out coronavirus in humans?
How many people can get tested?
If this experiment proves out to be successful, the sniffer dogs could screen up to 250 people an hour. This will play an important role in detecting the virus in busy transportation areas like airports and train stations.
What does this training process look like?
Professor James Logan, the project’s lead researcher and head of the department of disease control at LSHTM explained the whole process of how this training process will flow. He said, “Our team will work with different NHS hospitals to recruit health care workers who will then be tested for COVID-19. ”
Explaining further, he told those who will be tested positive will be asked to put on a pair of sterilized nylon socks as well as a face mask for a few hours. As Nylon has proved to be a great matrix to collect odor, therefore it will be an easy and effective way to collect a person’s scent.
All the samples that will be taken from these homeworkers will be corona-positive but with no symptoms. “Anybody who has symptoms will not be a part of this study” explained Logan.
How will the dogs be trained?
Once the sample-taking process will be completed, half of the samples will be sent to a lab where scientists will examine what chemicals the odor is composed of or in other words what COVID-19 smells like. And the other half will go to a charity based in Milton Keynes — just outside of London where 6 specialist dogs will be trained to sniff them out.
This intense dog training will last from 8 to 10 weeks. This training will include putting the samples on a metal stand along with some other scents of people not affected with COVID-19. And when a dog successfully screens out the coronavirus scent, it gets a treat. This training team hopes that these dogs will be able to point out coronavirus before the people start showing symptoms.
The team expects that final results will be out in between August and September. If the results will be promising, then this project will be expanded on to a large scale. Logan said, “If successful, this approach could revolutionize how we detect the virus, with the potential to screen high numbers of people”.**