A team of researchers were awarded almost €500,000 by the UK Government to find out if trained bio-detection dogs can help in a new rapid testing measure for the deadly coronavirus.

Medical detection dogs have been successful in catching the presence of malaria and certain types of cancers in humans. Now, researchers are hoping they are up for the new challenge of detecting the odor of coronavirus in patients, particularly those who are not showing any symptoms.

The program is in partnership between the Medical Detection Dogs charity and universities like London’s School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the UK government.

“When you have a disease, whether it’s a virus or a parasite, it changes the body odor so you actually smell differently. We’ve demonstrated this already with diseases like malaria for example,” Professor James Logan, head of disease control, told Euronews in an interview.

“And we know for other diseases like certain types of cancers, Parkinson’s, even detection of epileptic seizures or blood sugar levels, that dogs can do this with a very very high level of accuracy,” he added.

Once the trials gather sufficient evidence, the first group of dogs may be deployed to key entry points into the UK within six months to assist testing people travelling from abroad.

Dogs can screen up to 250 people per hour.

“Within a few weeks of beginning the training, we’ll know if there’s something there, but it will take about 8 to 10 weeks to get to the end of that process,” Logan said. “So what we’re hoping is that by August or September time, we would have in the UK at least six dogs that would be ready to be deployed. And we’d also have a method for scaling this up so that other countries could do the same sort of thing.”

They are currently training Labradors and Cocker Spaniels for the study. Logan said those breeds are excellent dogs and able to smell very well.

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