Researchers are sure dogs can detect cases of coronavirus and have launched a six-week project to prove they can do it at airports.
It comes after researchers a the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine delved into dogs' ability to sniff out malaria, based on a belief that every disease triggers a distinct odour.
The head of disease control at the LSHTM said dogs could detect malaria with “extremely high accuracy” and, as other respiratory diseases changed body odour, there was a “very high chance” it could also work with Covid-19.
They plan to start training dogs in six weeks time in order to “provide a rapid, non-invasive diagnosis towards the tail end of the epidemic”.
They could also detect subtle changes in skin temperature, potentially making them useful to determining if a person has a fever.
Claire Guest, founder and chief executive of Medical Detection Dogs, said: “In principle, we're sure that dogs could detect Covid-19.
“We are now looking into how we can safely catch the odour of the virus from patients and present it to the dogs.
“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.”
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Detection dogs could be deployed at airports at the end of the pandemic to rapidly identify people carrying the virus, helping prevent the re-emergence of the disease, according to Steve Lindsay from Durham University.
Over 500,000 coronavirus infections have now been recorded across 182 countries, contributing to 22,920 deaths, according to an AFP calculation based on official country data and World Health Organization figures.
The number of actual infections is believed to be higher since many countries are only testing severe cases or patients requiring hospitalisation.
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