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Durham University

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Dogs could join fight against Covid-19

(27 March 2020)

New research will look into whether man’s best friend could play a role in preventing the spread of Coronavirus.

The charity, Medical Detection Dogs, will be working with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Durham University, to test if their specially-trained dogs can detect the virus.

The team previously collaborated to successfully prove that dogs can be trained to sniff out the scent of malaria.

Fight against disease

Medical Detection Dogs has spent years successfully researching the science behind dogs’ sense of smell and believes that dogs could detect the disease. It has always adopted a rigorous, scientific approach to its work, and produced more than a dozen peer reviewed research papers which support its belief that each disease has its own unique odour.

The project is still at a very early stage but the team has now started preparations to intensively train dogs so they could be ready in six weeks to help provide a rapid, non-invasive diagnosis towards the end of the epidemic. They have also approached government about how dogs can play a role in the fight against the disease.

Powerful noses

Dogs searching for Covid-19 would be trained in the same way as those dogs the charity has already trained to detect diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s and bacterial infections – by sniffing samples in the charity’s training room and indicating when they have found it.

They are also able to detect subtle changes in temperature of the skin, so could potentially tell if someone has a fever.

Once trained, dogs could also be used to identify travellers entering the country infected with the virus or be deployed in other public spaces.

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