Dogs trained to detect Covid 19

Posted on 2020-10-01 12:36:25


It is widely known that ‘sniffer’ dogs can perform astonishing feats in police investigations in the search for buried bodies of murder victims, and in warning individuals of the imminence or actual existence of certain medical conditions. A research team led by Dominique Grandjean at the National Veterinary School of Alport in France has been training dogs to identify traces of Coronavirus by sniffing.

The dogs are trained using samples of sweat from people who had contracted the virus and are able to detect a positive virus from among a selection of negative samples with “100% accuracy”. It has been established that sweat does not carry the Covid 19 infection, so the procedure is not a risky one. Sniffer dogs are being trained in the United Arab Emirates, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Belgium, with Australia next.

When a test is being conducted, the dog puts its nose into a stainless steel cone. The sweat sample has been placed in a separate container beyond the cone. The dog’s nose never comes into contact with the sweat sample.

A charity, Medical Detection Dogs, registered in England, Wales and Scotland is already successfully training dogs to detect malaria and Parkinson’s disease. They are collaborating with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and with Durham University and are at the first stage of training Covid 19 sniffer dogs. Professor James Logan, head of Disease Control, says that research shows that sniffer dogs can detect the odour of malaria infection with even higher accuracy than the World Health Organisation standards for a diagnostic. Each disease has a unique odour.

For some time, dogs have been used to detect a variety of ailments: for instance, to detect diabetes, hypoglycaemia, and some cancers, and to warn epileptics of impending seizures.

When a dog has formerly undergone training to detect other ailments, training for the Coronavirus takes six to eight weeks. The training period for dogs that have not been trained to detect other ailments is three to six months. There is no indication that dogs can pass on the virus to humans.

A dog’s nose contains over 300 million scent receptors, compared with 5 million in humans. The dogs are regularly tested, and to this point no detector dog has been found to carry the virus.

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