Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are attempting to teach eight dogs to detect the Covid-19, which could help quickly screen large numbers of people in public places.
They have trained our canine friends to sniff out other deadly diseases, including malaria, diabetes, some cancers and Parkinson’s disease.
If the dogs’ 300 million scent receptors can be trained to smell the novel coronavirus, they could eventually be used in public places such as airports, businesses or hospitals to screen large numbers of people quickly and easily. Because this diagnosis by a dog would depend on the smell given off by people infected with COVID-19, it should have no problem picking out asymptomatic carriers. This would play a valuable role in disease response as people return to work and social-distancing restrictions are relaxed.
The dog’s will be trained for three weeks using a process called odor imprinting in which the dogs will be exposed to COVID-19 positive saliva or urine collected from hospitals and then rewarded with food when they pick out the correct samples. When the dogs have detected a scent, they’ll be tested to see if they can pick out COVID-19 positive people. Trained dogs could be ready to start sniffing out COVID-19 in humans by July.
Dogs are also being trained for this purpose in the United Kingdom. This would help prevent the re-emergence of the disease, after they have brought the present epidemic under control.
The U.K. trial expects to start collecting COVID-19 positive samples in the coming weeks and will train its dogs shortly thereafter. If the trial is successful, they plan to send six dogs to be used for screening in U.K. airports.
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