UK charity says dogs can sniff out disease

AFP
Can dogs detect COVID-19? A British charity believes so, and has begun training canines to sniff out the coronavirus following previous screening success with various illnesses.
AFP

Can dogs detect COVID-19? A British charity believes so, and has begun training canines to sniff out the coronavirus following previous screening success with various illnesses.

Medical Detection Dogs, set up in 2008 to harness dogs’ sharp sense of smell to detect human diseases, started working on the project late last month.

At 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 odor, which dogs are uniquely well-placed to smell. The charity has previously worked with canines to detect cancers, and bacterial infections using samples taken from patients.

“We believe dogs can detect COVID-19 and will be able to screen hundreds of people very, very rapidly so we know who needs to be tested and isolated,” said Claire Guest, founder and chief executive of Medical Detection Dogs.

“We have evidence that dogs can detect bacteria and other diseases, so we believe that taking this project forward will make a huge difference to the ability to control COVID-19 spread.”

Guest is working with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Durham University in northeast England — the same team that recently collaborated to show dogs can be trained to detect malaria. James Logan, head of the LSHTM’s disease control department, said that project demonstrated dogs can smell odors from humans with “extremely high accuracy.”

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