With the coronavirus affecting so many people around the world, testing is limited. Even if someone shows symptoms of COVID-19, they are often advised to stay home and not get tested if they’re not a high-risk patient. The number of cases is just getting too overwhelming for medical officials to handle, so in order to properly care for all those affected, they might need some help. As it turns out, our furry friends could be the answer to all our problems. Dogs might be able to sniff out the coronavirus just like they often do with other serious health concerns.
Training Dogs to Sniff Out COVID-19
Dogs have extremely sensitive noses, which is why they can often smell things that humans can’t. They can already detect human health problems like cancer and low blood sugar. So, it’s likely that the same could be true for COVID-19.
The team at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) is currently testing to see if dogs can locate a person with the virus. They are working with Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University to complete this study. The three of them also worked together in the past to train dogs to detect malaria.
“It’s early days for COVID-19 odor detection,” said James Logan, the head of LSHTM’s Department of Disease Control. “We do not know if COVID-19 has a specific odor yet, but we know that other respiratory diseases change our body odor, so there is a chance that it does. And if it does, dogs will be able to detect it. This new diagnostic tool could revolutionize our response to COVID-19.”
Currently, they’re looking for a way to safely get the odor of the virus from a patient and bring it to the dogs in training. Then, if the virus has a distinct smell for the dogs, they could be ready to start sniffing for COVID-19 in as soon as 6 weeks.
How Will This Affect the Pandemic?
If all goes as planned, these dogs could sniff up for 250 people per hour. Then, if they spot the virus on someone, that can confirm which people need to be tested. This would make the process of finding patients much faster and more efficient.
“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. This would be fast, effective and non-invasive and make sure the limited [National Health Service] testing resources are only used where they are really needed,” said Dr. Claire Guest, CEO and co-founder of Medical Detection Dogs.
These dogs could also go to public areas to spot people with the virus in a crowd. Specifically, they could work at airports or office buildings. If they can sniff out people in these higher populated areas, the coronavirus risk could be greatly decreased.
Ever since this pandemic started, there have been many fears about how it could affect dogs. Luckily, the World Health Organization found that COVID-19 doesn’t pose a threat for dogs. Plus, with these new studies, dogs could actually help this pandemic and put an end to it sooner. In the meantime, just continue social distancing with your dogs at home to keep everyone as safe as possible.