Coronavirus: trial begins to see if dogs can “detect” the virus

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A medical detection dog

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Medical detection dogs

A trial in the UK to see if specialized medical sniffer dogs can detect coronavirus in humans is about to start.

Dogs are already trained to detect odors from certain cancers, malaria and Parkinson’s by the charity Medical Detection Dogs.

The first phase of the trial will be led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, with the charity and the University of Durham.

It was supported by government funding of £ 500,000.

Innovation Minister Lord Bethell said he hopes dogs can provide “quick results” as part of the government’s broader testing strategy.

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The test will examine whether “Covid dogs” – made up of labradors and cocker spaniel – can spot the virus in humans from odor samples before symptoms appear.

It will determine whether so-called bio-detection dogs, which could each screen up to 250 people per hour, could be used as a new early warning measure to detect Covid-19 in the future.

The first phase will involve NHS staff in London hospitals collecting odor samples from people infected with coronavirus and from people who are not infected.

Six dogs will then undergo training to identify the virus from the samples.

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Medical detection dogs

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Medical detection dogs

More than 10 years of research collected by Medical Detection Dogs has shown that dogs can be trained to smell the disease at the equivalent dilution of a teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic-size pools of water.

Dr. Claire Guest, co-founder and CEO of the association, said she was “confident that our dogs will be able to find the smell of Covid-19”.

If this turns out to be the case, the dogs will then go to a “second phase to test them in real situations, after which we hope to work with other agencies to train more dogs for deployment”, he said. she declared.

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Medical detection dogs

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Media captionFrench firefighters try to teach dogs to smell coronaviruses

Professor James Logan, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “Our previous work has shown that malaria has a peculiar smell, and with medical detection dogs we have successfully trained dogs to detect with says malaria.

“This, combined with the knowledge that respiratory diseases can change body odors, gives us hope that dogs can also detect Covid-19. “

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