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We all know how important dogs already are to our mental, emotional and physical health. Now, dogs could be key in finally ending the global COVID-19 pandemic by doing what they do naturally—sniffing!
From seizure and pregnancy detection, to sniffing out cancer, changes in blood sugar, or alerting to dangerous bacteria in hospitals, medically trained dogs are already making important contributions to the public’s health and safety every day. Now, dogs are being trained to sniff out the novel Coronavirus responsible for the most widespread global pandemic the world has seen in decades.
Dogs are now being trained by UK non-profit organization, Medical Detection Dogs, to detect the novel coronavirus. If successful, the specially trained dogs could become one of the world’s most valuable tools in the fight against COVID-19. Once trained, the detection dogs could alert to asymptomatic carriers traveling in airports or busy transportation hubs.
Medical Detection Dogs explained to the BBC that each virus has a unique smell, undetectable by humans. But, nature has provided dogs with a nearly perfect sense of smell. If you have a dog, you already know that your dog will smell something long before you can. In fact, the average dog has over 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses (compared to a relatively tiny six million for humans).
Prior research into the reliability of scent detection dogs found that properly trained dogs could detect the odor of malaria infection with a level of accuracy “above the World Health Organization standards for a diagnostic,” making them a very fast, efficient, and non-invasive test, freeing up resources and extensive testing for people already showing illness symptoms.
The dogs could also lead the charge in preventing the expected resurgence of the virus later this year.
The dogs’ training is expected to take approximately 6 weeks to complete. After training, the organization will conduct trials on the COVID-19-causing coronavirus with Durham University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).