Dogs are already widely used to detect various kinds of diseases such as cancer. This is because diseases have odors that are quite distinct. Scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LHTSM) have come up with a plan where they can train dogs with a strong sense of smell to detect COVID-19 in patients. This project of dogs to detect COVID-19 is undergoing crowdfunding and is testing dogs as screeners for people with COVID-19 in two months. But first, the team has to actually prove whether dogs are able to detect COVID-19 in people.
It could be possible if COVID-19 has a particular odor and dogs can be trained to smell and detect that odor. But not all dogs can perform diagnosis. LSHTM is working with a cocker spaniel and a labrador retriever because they have an exceptional sense of smell and the ability to be trained. Training the animals to identify the odor of samples from people with COVID-19 and separate them from people without infection or those with common colds can take a month to six weeks.
James Logan, head of LSHTM’s Department of Disease Control informs that,”We have four or five dogs ready to go into training right now, If we were able to deploy them within a month or two, we could screen maybe 4,000 to 5,000 people per day. In the short-term, there are some locations where dogs might be appropriate to us such as screening medical or care staff, or people going into schools and other community areas.”