Dogs join fight against COVID-19 by learning how to detect the virus
TORONTO -- A British charity which has successfully trained dogs to detect malaria is now attempting to train their canine sniffers to detect COVID-19.
Medical Detection Dogs, a charity in London, U.K. has partnered with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine to initiate trials that will train dogs how to sniff out the coronavirus
Dr. Claire Guest, the behavioural psychologist behind the charity, told CTV News she is confident in these canines’ ability to help combat the spread of the virus.
“We already train dogs in the past… absolutely no reason why a dog can’t detect the virus,” Guest said.
Four years ago, CTV News’ Sandie Rinaldo saw first-hand how these dogs are trained to detect serious illnesses such as prostate cancer, Parkinson’s disease and malaria.
Kiwi, a three-year-old golden retriever at the time, showed his skills by sniffing various negative samples of a patient with prostate cancer and one positive sample. Within minutes, Kiwi stopped and attentively sat in front of the positive sample.
Kiwi and other dogs in the program have been trained to be more than 80 per cent accurate. The same structure of trial is being used to teach dogs how to sniff human samples that have been treated in advance for COVID-19.
“The person will be breathing out, there’ll be a lot of odour around the body that the dog can detect, the dog has to learn that smell,” said Guest.
Upon successful trials, Guest said the dogs will be vital in detecting those who have the virus but are not exhibiting symptoms, which could be extremely useful when screening travellers entering the U.K.
The U.K. has faced several weeks of lockdown already, with more than 85,000 cases of the virus, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent a few days in the ICU earlier this week, but has since been released.