Dogs have been trained to sniff out malaria, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. A couple months ago, we shared a story about how dogs are even used to detect parasites in orange trees. Now, handlers hope to train dogs to smell COVID-19.
Medical Detection Dogs, a charity based in the UK, is working with Durham University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) to begin a trial using dogs to sniff out the virus. The team will begin the trial once they determine a safe way to obtain the odor of COVID-19 from patients. The dogs can also register changes in skin temperature, so they could be used to detect a fever, a symptom often associated with the disease.
Once a method for detection is established, the team is confident in their ability to train dogs to sniff out the virus. The dogs are highly accurate in detecting other diseases. For example, they are able to pinpoint malaria at high accuracy levels than the World Health Organization’s standards for a diagnostic.
Training dogs to track down COVID-19 could be a vital instrument in preventing the re-emergence of the disease after lockdown restrictions are lifted. Dogs could patrol crowded areas like airports to limit the spread of the virus. Dogs are also less invasive and more time efficient than the current detection method of routine temperature checks at travel sites.