Trial Launches In UK For Dogs To Detect The Coronavirus
Trials for specially-trained 'Covid dogs', that may be able to detect coronavirus in humans, are set to begin as part of new research.
This will establish whether they could be used as a potential new non-invasive, early warning measure to detect coronavirus in the future - even before symptoms begin.
World-leading researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) will carry out the first phase of a trial in collaboration with the charity Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University, backed by £500,000 of government funding.
This aims to determine whether dogs are able to detect coronavirus in humans from odour samples.
The trial brings together leading disease control experts from the universities with Medical Detection Dogs, who have already successfully trained dogs to detect the odour of many different diseases in humans, such as cancer, malaria and Parkinson's disease.
If successful, these dogs could provide a fast and non-invasive detection method alongside the Government's robust five-pillar testing strategy.
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It is one of a number of testing
measures being explored in order to ensure the government's response to the
virus is as extensive as possible.
The initial phase of the trial will see NHS staff in London hospitals collect odour samples from people who are infected with coronavirus and those who are uninfected.
The six bio detection dogs will then undergo thorough training to identify the virus from the samples.
More than ten years of research gathered by Medical Detection Dogs has shown that the dogs, which could each screen up to 250 people per hour, can be trained to detect the odour of disease at the equivalent dilution of one teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic-sized swimming pools of water.
Minister for Innovation Lord Bethell said: "Bio-detection dogs already detect specific cancers and we believe this innovation might provide speedy results as part of our wider testing strategy.
"Accuracy is essential so this trial will tell us whether 'covid dogs' can reliably detect the virus and stop it spreading."
Dr Claire Guest, co-founder and CEO of Medical Detection Dogs added: "We are delighted that the government has given us the opportunity to demonstrate that dogs can play a role in the fight against Covid-19. They have the potential to help by quickly screening people, which could be vital in the future.
"We have already demonstrated our expertise in canine disease detection by successfully training dogs to detect diseases like cancer, Parkinson's and malaria, and we apply that same science to train life-saving Medical Alert Assistance Dogs to detect odour changes in individuals caused by their health condition.
"We are sure our dogs will be able to find the odour of COVID-19 and we will then move into a second phase to test them in live situations, following which we hope to work with other agencies to train more dogs for deployment. We are incredibly proud that a dog's nose could once again save many lives."
Featured Image Credit: Department of Health and Social Care