Can Man’s best friend help save the world? London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University have decided to come together and explore the possibilities of training Dogs to detect covid-19 Patients.
They have started preparing to train dogs for at least 6 weeks, so that they can be ready to contribute in the fight against Covid-19. As at now, the researchers have informed the government, about how the dog could play a vital role during this pandemic. They believe that the dogs could supplement ongoing testing by screening for the virus accurately, and potentially detecting up to 250 people per hour.
Considering the fact that most countries have limited resources for testing, if the project is successful, it will help save resources.
So before now, Medical Detection Dogs organisation had trained dogs to detect malaria, cancer, and some other infectious diseases by letting the dogs to sniff the cloth of an infected patient. That way, the dogs get familiar with the smell and they are later trained to detect people who have that same smell.
Head of the Department of Disease Control at LSHTM, Professor James Logan, and Director of ARCTEC, made this statements:
Our previous work demonstrated that dogs can detect odours from humans with a malaria infection with extremely high accuracy – above the World Health Organization standards for a diagnostic. It's early days for COVID-19 odour detection. We do not know if COVID-19 has a specific odour yet, but we know that other respiratory diseases change our body odour so there is a chance that it does. And if it does dogs will be able to detect it. This new diagnostic tool could revolutionise our response to COVID-19.
The researchers hope that the corona virus has a unique smell of its own, so that they can train this dogs to sniff out people with covid-19, the same way they train them to detect malaria patients.
The researchers also mentioned that the dogs are also able to detect little changes in temperature of the skin, so could potentially tell if someone has a fever. They aim to place these dogs in ports so that they can detect if any traveller has a virus or not.
CEO and Co-Founder of Medical Detection Dogs organisation, Dr Claire, says:
In principle, we’re sure that dogs could detect COVID-19. We are now looking into how we can safely catch the odour of the virus from patients and present it to the dogs. The aim is that dogs will be able to screen anyone, including those who are asymptomatic and tell us whether they need to be tested. This would be fast, effective and non-invasive and make sure the limited NHS testing resources are only used where they are really needed."
Dr Claire also made mention of the fact that the dogs will be of help where resource and testing kits are very low. In her words:
When resources and testing kits are low, hundreds of people can't be tested in one go. But the dogs can screen up to 750 people really quickly. By identifying those who need to be tested and self-isolate, they can stop the spread.
Professor Steve Lindsay at Durham University also made the following statement:
“If the research is successful, we could use COVID-19 detection dogs at airports at the end of the epidemic to rapidly identify people carrying the virus. This would help prevent the re-emergence of the disease after we have brought the present epidemic under control.”