In its training room in Milton Keynes, in central England, the dogs are being intensively trained to sniff out samples of the virus, and indicate when they have found it to receive a treat. The approach is based on a belief that each disease triggers a distinct odour, which canines are uniquely well-placed to smell. The charity has previously worked with its dogs to detect cancers, Parkinson’s disease and bacterial infections using samples taken from patients.
Specially trained medical detection dogs could be the solution to the crisis in the lack of testing that many countries are facing during the coronavirus pandemic. The dogs are capable of sniff testing 750 people an hour, according to the head of a non-profit which trains medical dogs. The potential for the dogs to respond to the coronavirus pandemic is being explored by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Durham University, and the Medical Detection Dogs organization.
LSHTM published a press release in late March describing the experimental project, which is seeking to establish whether the dogs can reliably detect COVID-19 in the way they can other disease. They plan to train six dogs if the initial trials are successful, according to an April 17 report by Britain’s Daily Mirror tabloid.
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