Medical detection dogs have been used since 2014 to detect the scent of deadly human diseases such as cancer, malaria and neurological disease. Dogs’ incredible nasal powers can detect tiny traces (around one part per trillion) of the odour of different diseases, helping scientists and medics to detect disease more quickly and cheaply and potentially providing better outcomes for patients.
Hope has been growing that these skills could be utilised to detect Coronavirus. Trials have recently begun by the Medical Detection Dogs’ Charity with Durham University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Charity boss, Dr Claire Guest, said: “In principle, we’re sure that dogs could detect COVID-19.” The key issue is to find a way in which the odour of the disease could be safely captured from infected patients.
Each disease has its own, unique odour. If COVID19’s odour is successfully captured, dogs could be ready within six weeks to provide a quick and cost-effective way to screen individuals for the virus – including those who have no symptoms.