London: Dogs are now being trained in the United Kingdom (UK) to sniff out the coronavirus (COVID-19) after they have previously helped detect diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s and bacterial infections, by sniffing samples.

According to Medical Detection Dogs charity based in England, it “has spent years successfully researching the science behind dogs’ sense of smell and believes that dogs could detect the disease.”

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Six dogs have been picked to be trained. Medical Detection Dogs tweeted with the photos of the dogs and wrote, “Norman, Digby, Storm, Star, Jasper and Asher could be trained to detect if someone has #COVID19 and play a vital role in preventing further spread of the pandemic in future.”

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“Medical Detection Dogs will be working in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Durham University, bringing together the team which recently collaborated to successfully prove that dogs can be trained to detect malaria.

“Together they have started preparations to intensively train dogs so they could be ready in 6 weeks to help provide a rapid, non-invasive diagnosis towards the tail end of the epidemic, and approached government about how dogs can play a role in the fight against the disease.

“Dogs searching for COVID-19 would be trained in the same way as those dogs the charity has already trained to detect diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s and bacterial infections – by sniffing samples in the charity’s training room and indicating when they have found it. They are also able to detect subtle changes in temperature of the skin, so could potentially tell if someone has a fever,” the charity said on its website.

“Once trained, dogs could also be used to identify travellers entering the country infected with the virus or be deployed in other public spaces,” it added.

Dr Claire Guest, CEO and Co-Founder of Medical Detection Dogs, said, “In principle, we’re sure that dogs could detect COVID-19.  We are now looking into how we can safely catch the odour of the virus from patients and present it to the dogs.

“The aim is that dogs will be able to screen anyone, including those who are asymptomatic and tell us whether they need to be tested.  This would be fast, effective and non-invasive and make sure the limited NHS testing resources are only used where they are really needed.”

If the research is successful, dogs could screen 750 people per hour, according to reports in British media.