The British government announced Saturday it will spend £500,000 ($605,000) to study if dogs have the ability detect the coronavirus.
The aim is to find a quick, non-invasive method of detecting the virus.
Research will be conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Durham University and British charity Medical Detection Dogs.
Medical Detection Dogs said it previously trained dogs to identify certain cancers, malaria and Parkinson’s disease and that dogs can learn to detect the odor of a disease which is the equivalent dilution of one teaspoon of sugar in two filled Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Six dogs, Labradors and cocker spaniels, will be given odor samples of coronavirus patients from London hospitals and trained to differentiate from the smells of non-infected people.
If the study proves successful, the dogs could sniff up to 250 people per hour. The new technique could be used in airports and public spaces.
“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,” said CEO of Medical Detection Dogs Claire Guest.
“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,” she added.
Similar research is taking place in the US and France.
Dogs have been known to also catch COVID-19, albeit in small numbers and most likely from their owners. Cases have been reported in the US and Hong Kong.
The coronavirus pandemic has claimed nearly 311,000 lives in 188 countries and regions since originating in China last December.
The US, Europe, and Russia are currently the world’s worst-hit regions.
More than 4.6 million cases have been reported worldwide and an excess of 1.6 million patients have recovered, according to figures compiled by US-based Johns Hopkins University.
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