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Durham University

Research & business

Royal visit for bio-detection dogs

(9 September 2020)

The Duchess of Cornwall has visited the training centre where trials will take place to determine whether dogs can sniff out Covid-19 in people.

The research is a collaboration between Medical Detection Dogs, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Durham University.

If the trial is successful, dogs could be used as a new rapid, non-invasive diagnostic tool for the virus. Specially-trained dogs could be deployed to public places such as airports in the UK to assist with the rapid screening of people travelling from abroad – with the potential of screening of up to 250 people per hour.

Training room

The Duchess, who is a Patron of the charity Medical Detection Dogs, watched demonstrations which showed dogs learning to detect the virus.

Her Royal Highness met two of the super sniffers – cocker spaniel, Asher and fox red Labrador, Belle as they underwent training alongside bio-detection specialist trainers.

The Duchess also watched a demonstration of passive screening, where Labradors, Marley and Bea, went up and down a queue of people to detect the smell, as they could in public places such as airports.

Volunteers needed

To make sure our four-legged friends have enough samples to smell, the researchers need members of the public to volunteer for the study.

They are looking to recruit thousands of people across England.

If you have mild Covid-19 symptoms and are due to have a swab test, or have had a swab test in the previous 24 hours, we would love to hear from you.

It is very simple to take part. All you will need to do is wear a mask for three hours and nylon socks and a t-shirt for twelve hours so we can collect your breath and body odour.

To find out more about volunteering, please call0207 927 2777 or send an email to

Find out more

  • You can find more information about volunteering for the study on the project pages
  • Find out more about our expert, Professor Steve Lindsay
  • Interested in studying Biosciences? Take a look at our undergraduate and postgraduate opportunities
  • The first phase of the trial is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)

Photo credit: MDD/Bex Arts