The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything we have experienced in modern history. So on whom may we count in helping us further detect this disease within our communities? Our animal best friends, of course.
According to AFP, on Friday, the British charity Medical Detection Dogs teamed up with scientists to test whether dogs may be able to detect COVID-19 through their sharp sense of smell. The dogs will work with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Durham University in northeastern England to determine whether canines are able to assist with diagnoses.
In the past, dogs have been able to detect the scents of diseases such as malaria, which researchers suggest has a distinct odor, as do other illnesses. This means that in principle, dogs would also be able to detect the COVID-19 coronavirus. According to the BBC, medical detection dogs could also potentially be trained to tell if someone had a fever.
Early detection of the virus is key, as someone infected with the virus can go two weeks without showing symptoms, yet be contagious during that entire period. The test kits are complex to manufacture and time-consuming to process, making detection harder still.
In an interview with the outlet, Claire Guest, founder and chief executive of Medical Detection Dogs, said that they are “now looking into how we can safely catch the odor of the virus from patients and present it to the dogs.” She went on to say that “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 NHS (National Health Service) testing resources are only used where they are really needed,” she added.