covid19 sniffing dogs

Researches on both sides of the ocean are looking into whether dogs can be trained to sniff out the COVID-19 in humans. Dogs have up to 300 million scent receptors in their noses. Diseases cause a change in the odor of the human body. Dogs have successfully been trained to sniff out some diseases including some cancers in humans.

Dogs are trained to distinguish a particular odor through a technique known as odor imprinting.  The dog is rewarded when they identify the odor, in this case, the disease sample.  The coronavirus presents a special challenge because so much is unknown about how it is transmitted.


The University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has added a new program that aims to see if dogs can detect the current strain of coronavirus. Dr. Cynthia Otto will lead the study to see if scent detection dogs can tell the difference between COVID-19 positive and negative patients.

In the United Kingdom, a similar study will be performed by the Medical Detection Dogs charity, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Durham University. The study aims to determine if dogs trained as medical sniffers can learn to distinguish the COVID-19 scent by sniffing samples from patients at London hospitals.

Once they can identify COVID-19 samples consistently, they will be tasked with differentiating between positive samples and negative samples. 8 labradors will participate in the PennVet trial and 6 dogs, labradors and cocker spaniels, in the UK trial.

Researchers are hopeful the dogs will be able to screen anyone, even those that are asymptomatic, and tell whether they need to be tested. If successful, trained dogs could be deployed to airports and borders to identify infected travelers. Most dogs are trained and reliable within 6 months so if these trials are successful, you may see “bio-detection” dogs on the job by July.

Video Story Source: ABCNews

UK Storey Source: WebMD



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