Training of Medical Detection Dogs to detect COVID-19
To dogs, especially trained dogs, disease has its own unique odor. The British charity, Medical Detection Dogs, which has already successfully trained dogs to identify cancer, Parkinson's Disease, and bacterial infections, is now in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Durham University to conduct a 6-week intensive training program for dogs to enable them to detect COVID-19.
Dogs searching for COVID-19 would be trained in the same way as those dogs the charity has already trained to detect disease - by sniffing samples in the charity’s training room and indicating when they have found it, as you will see in the short video below.
Dogs are also being trained to detect subtle changes in temperature of the skin, so they could potentially tell if someone has a fever.
These canine skills can be put to use at airports and other transport terminals to detect illness from people coming into the country and in other public places; the idea being that canine detection would be the first step in getting people medically tested.
Dr Claire Guest, CEO and Co-Founder of Medical Detection Dogs, 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, Dr. Guest said. "This would be fast, effective and non-invasive and (would) make sure the limited NHS (National Health Service) testing resources are only used where they are really needed.”
This story is definitely worth following; if it can be done, its impact could put a significant cap on the spread of COVID-19. If you would like to make a donation to this effort, click this link!