By Katy Cable-A 3 minute Read
Imagine being able to go to a huge concert, or a major sporting event without any worry of catching Coronavirus. That day may be coming quicker than you think. In addition to having your backpack or purse checked by security guards, you would also need only to allow a quick sniff by a working “CoVid detecting Canine” Before long we may be able to enjoy our favorite crowded pastimes without having our fingers pricked or permitting a stranger to shove a 12” swab up our noses until it tickles the back of our eye sockets.
Currently, dogs are being trained to “Sniff-Out COVID-19.” As you know, dogs have a highly developed sense of smell that is nearly a million times more sensitive than humans. There are several very special anatomic features of the canine nose that give dogs the ability to detect even infinitesimal amounts of a particular odorant. They can already detect human health problems like cancer and low blood sugar so we’re hoping the same could be true for COVID-19.
The team at the London School of Hygiene & Topical Medicine (LSHTM) is testing to see if dogs can locate a person with the virus. They are working alongside specially chosen Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University to complete this study. Three canines on the team previously worked together to detect malaria.
“It’s early days for COVID-19 odor detection,” said James Logan, the head of LSHTM’s Department of Disease Control. “We do not know if COVID-19 has a specific odor yet, but we know that other respiratory diseases change our body odor, so there is a chance that it does. And if it does, dogs will be able to detect it. This new diagnostic tool could revolutionize our response to COVID-19.”
Once they’ve found a way to safely get the odor of the virus from a patient and bring it to the dogs in training they could be ready to start sniffing for COVID-19 in as soon as 6 weeks.
How Will This Affect the Pandemic? If all goes as planned, each trained dog could sniff up for 250 people per hour. If the virus is spotted on someone, those people can receive further testing for confirmation. This would make the process of finding patients much faster and more efficient. It would also cut down dramatically on accurate test kits which can be in short supply.
“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 testing resources are only used where they are really needed,” said Dr. Claire Guest, CEO and co-founder of Medical Detection Dogs.
Additionally, these dogs may be the ticket to opening up highly populated areas such as large events, shopping malls, amusement parks, and mega churches. Trained canines could quickly and inexpensively sniff out infected people in these crowded areas, and the coronavirus risk could be decreased dramatically.
Ever since this pandemic started, there have been many fears about how it affects dogs. Can they catch it from us? Or worse, can they infect us? If dogs are sniffing out this deadly virus, many will worry were putting them at risk. Luckily, the World Health Organization found that COVID-19 doesn’t pose a threat to pets. This work would not put the dogs in danger.
And it’s not just CoVid 19, the keen canine sense of smell also has the potential to be helpful in detecting other diseases in humans that have characteristic odors, including:
Urinary tract infections
Gastrointestinal (GI) disorders
Endocrine disorders (e.g., Cushing's syndrome)
It's possible that one day soon, while visiting your doctor's office you'll be asked to undergo a full “body sniff” by a four-legged, fur-covered physician's assistant! Wouldn’t that be great! These exciting new studies show that beloved dogs could actually hold the key to resuming “life as we USED to know it!“ They may help put an end to this horrible pandemic much sooner. In the meantime, we must remain hopeful while we continue social distancing and staying as safe as possible.
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