‘COVID dogs’ could sniff out up to 250 people an hour for coronavirus

Trials are going ahead to see if dogs could provide a non-invasive way of detecting the coronavirus.

Six dogs – labradors and cocker spaniels – will be given samples of the odour of COVID-19 patients from London hospitals, and taught to distinguish their smell from that of people who are not infected.

The British government has allocated £500,000 in funding for the trials, which will be part of research into possible non-invasive ways to detect the virus early.

The research will be conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Durham University and the charity Medical Detection Dogs.

Medical Detection Dogs said it has trained dogs to detect some cancers, Parkinson’s disease and malaria, and that its research shows dogs can be trained to detect the odour of disease at the equivalent dilution of one teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic-sized swimming pools of water.

Dr Claire Guest, co-founder and chief executive of Medical Detection Dogs, said: “They have the potential to help by quickly screening people, which could be vital in the future.

“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.”

If the trials are successful, each dog could check up to 250 people an hour and be used at places such as airports.

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