Dogs are truly incredible animals, but even more incredible than the dogs themselves are their noses! The dog’s nose is nature’s perfect sniffer. It has been used by humans to detect all kinds of things, from maladies like cancer to explosive devices, drugs, cadavers, and missing people.
Now, in the middle of a global pandemic, science is once again turning to the dog’s nose for help. There is a new UK-based dog-focused study that is working to see if the dog’s nose can detect COVID-19. Starting in April of 2020, the scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, or LHTSM, believe that they can train dogs to pick up the illness in humans – and they’re hoping to have these detection dogs trained and ready to go in less than two months!
The LSHTM’s Department of Disease Control has previously worked on similar projects before, once having trained to detect malaria.
The head of the LSHTM Department of Disease Control, James Logan, has stated the project is still in the early days.
In a statement to CityLab, Logan said, “We know diseases have odors — including respiratory diseases such as influenza — and that those odors are in fact quite distinct. There is a very, very good chance that COVID-19 has a specific odor, and if it does I am really confident that the dogs would be able to learn that smell and detect it.”
Currently, there are “four or five” dogs who are being put through training.
Logan revealed, “If we were able to deploy them within a month or two, we could screen maybe 4,000 to 5,000 people per day.”
These dogs would then be used to screen in potential places where people could be spreading the disease, such as schools, medical facilities, airports, etc.
The project is accompanied by a crowdfunding campaign, who’s first step is to collect odor samples from humans who are infected with the coronavirus, as well as control odor samples.
“Then, we will use those odor samples with 5 dogs that are already pre-trained and awaiting training with the COVID-19 samples. Through an intensive training program, we will test the method rigorously and, if successful, we could deploy dogs within as little as 6 weeks.”
For more information about the project, you can go to Medical Detection Dogs.
Additionally, you can watch the video below: