As the world still reckons with the COVID-19 pandemic, the big question on everyone’s mind is how we can begin to return to our normal lives without risking our health or causing another spike in cases.
Many essential businesses require people to be in close quarters, causing a risk of outbreak if someone has the virus. Fast and reliable detection is crucial.
But amazingly, the key to solving this problem could be dogs. In the UK, dogs are currently being trained to sniff for the coronavirus at airports.
According to CNN, six labradors and cocker spaniels, nicknamed the “Super Six,” are currently in preliminary trials to see if they can successfully detect the coronavirus in people.
The research is being conducted by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in collaboration with charity Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University.
Dogs have long been used in airport security, sniffing for bombs and explosives. They’ve also been used to detect diseases like cancer and Parkinson’s, so there’s reason to hope that dogs could be trained to identify COVID-19.
“It builds up on years of research that we’ve already done as a team to demonstrate that people who have a malaria infection have a distinctive body odor,” lead researcher Professor James Logan told CNN. “We’ve shown that dogs can be trained to detect that with very high accuracy.”
The dogs have been smelling face masks and nylon socks, learning to differentiate the body odors of people with COVID-19 and people without it.
While dogs aren’t believed to be susceptible to COVID-19, they are still taking safety precautions: the dogs are not being trained in contact with any coronavirus patients, and are only being touched by their handlers.
While the research is still in preliminary stages, and it isn’t certain when or if these dogs will appear in airports, if the program is a success it could make a massive impact on curbing the pandemic.
Not only would the dogs prevent outbreaks among passengers, they would keep the disease from spreading country to country.
“Hopefully this will prevent a second peak and enable precious NHS resources to be used where most needed,” said Dr. Claire Guest, CEO and co-founder of Medical Detection Dogs. “We are incredibly proud that a dog’s nose could once again save many lives.”
It’s incredible the things dogs can do. We really hope this idea is a success and these dogs can help save lives with their detection skills.
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