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Sniffer Dogs Detecting Coronavirus

Coronavirus detected by sniffer dogsCoronavirus detected by sniffer dogs

The exceptional sniffer dogs are now being trained to detect Covid-19 from people and is proving to be quite the success.

Sniffer dogs are not only trained to detect drugs and/or explosives, but also trained to detect certain diseases that have a specific olfactory signature such as Parkinson’s disease, malaria and some cancers.  Research by the Medical Detection Dogs in Milton Keynes suggests that the dogs can be trained to detect the odour of disease equivalent to the dilution of ‘one teaspoon of sugar in two Olympic-sized swimming pools of water’.
Sniffer Dog Trials in Finland 

The University of Helsinki have dogs that have worked before as Medical Detection Dogs, are being trained to detect the virus with almost 100% certainty.  One dog, Kossi, an eight-year-old greyhound mix, took only seven minutes to learn to identify the scent of SARs-CoV-2.

Some of these dogs have been working on a pilot study at Helsinki Airport since 22nd September.
How were they tested?

International passengers, once their luggage have been collected, are asked to dab their skin with a wipe and place in a beaker.  This beaker, in a separate booth, is placed next to other beakers containing different control scents.  If the dog detects the virus it will yelp, or paw, or lie down.  The infected passenger will then be asked to take a free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to verify the dog’s detection.
Scientists believe that the Covid-19 positive people sweat odour is different to those who are negative and that the dogs can detect that difference.

Trials in the UK

Leading the trials in the UK are the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Durham University and the charity, Medical Detection Dogs.  

Eleven NHS hospitals are taking part in the trial to see if the sniffer dogs can detect Covid-19.  Nottingham University Hospitals were asking for volunteers from staff and their families to trail the detection from September.  The volunteers would provide face masks which would have been worn for three hours, and T-Shirts and nylon socks worn for twelve hours, to give samples of their breath and body odour.
At Kettering General Hospital in Northamptonshire, ninety-two staff members volunteered.  Their samples, along with whether they tested positive or negative, were sent to the research team.  

It is hoped that approximately 3,500 NHS staff members will have volunteered with the trails.  

London Paddington Railway Station

These dogs were being trained in a laboratory at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and are now trialing at London Paddington railway station.  This gives the dogs the opportunity to trial in a real-life situation with large crowds, as opposed to being in a laboratory.  This is a skill to detect the virus amongst a sea of odours.

Labradors Bob and Basil accurately picked out the person wearing an item of clothing with Covid-19 odour six times from the five volunteers.

Patron of the charity, Medical Detection Dogs, The Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla, and Health Secretary, Matt Hancock were both present at London Paddington Station during a trial and were “impressed” by the abilities of the dogs.  

If these trials are successful, sniffer dogs will become a mainstream in airports and railway stations, screening international travellers as they arrive.

The research team envisage the Medical Detection Dogs being used in areas that attract large crowds such as large shopping centres, cinemas, theatres, and sporting arenas allowing them to open for business.  

Is Medical Detection Dogs the way forward?

According to the research team here in the UK, the dogs “can be used as a non-invasive, rapid and effective diagnostic tool to screen people for Covid-19”.

If the trials prove successful, it is estimated that 250 people could be screened in an hour.  Within 8-10 weeks a dog can be fully trained and deployed to detect Covid-19.  It is hoped that the dogs will be able to start work in early 2021.

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K9 Deployment sniffer dogs and handlers are trained and accredited to ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) standards at a Regional Police Dog Training Centre or trained and accredited by NASDU (National Association of Security Dog Users).

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