Medical Detection Dogs Being Trained To Sniff Out COVID-19 In The UK

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dogs covid-19 cover
Images adapted from: Andrew Crowley, Medical Detection Dogs

Whether it’s being our companion or literally saving our lives, dogs aren’t known as man’s best friend for nothing. And amid the distressing spread COVID-19 across the globe, our furry friends are stepping up to help once again.

Medical Detection Dogs is a Britain-based charity that has been training dogs to detect illnesses in humans in order to reduce the need for diagnostic tests, which can be expensive and invasive.

With countries running out of the necessary medical equipment like test kits in order to keep up with the rising case numbers, the charity has teamed up with scientists to see if dogs might be able to sniff out the COVID-19 virus in patients, CNA reports.


Dogs have been trained to detect other diseases


In a study conducted by Imperial College London and Medical Detection Dogs (MDD), it was found that trained dogs were able to detect “ultra-low concentrations” of bacterium that cause lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients.

medical detection dog
Image credit: Imperial College London

MDD has also been able to train their dogs to detect other viruses and diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and malaria. This is achieved when canines are able to pick out changes in a person’s odour caused by the disease, using samples like breathe, urine, and swabs.

Plus, they are able to detect changes in body temperature as well, thus being able to tell if a person has a fever.

MDD will be working with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Durham University to see how dogs can play a part in combating COVID-19. Claire Guest, founder of the charity, said that the team was confident in dogs being able to detect the virus.


Hoping to help asymptomatic patients


With people carrying the virus despite being asymptomatic, MDD hopes that the dogs will be able to screen anyone in order to determine whether someone needs to be tested.

medical detection dogs
Image credit: Medical Detection Dogs

“We are now looking into how we can safely catch the odour of the virus from patients and present it to the dogs,” said Guest. Canine detection would also be a good non-invasive alternative that can help lighten the load of test resources at medical facilities.

If successful, detection dogs could be deployed at high-risk venues such as airports, where people carrying the virus can be identified quickly.

We look forward to seeing what these heroic pups can do!

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