LONDON – The ability of dogs to detect if humans are infected with COVID-19 is being tested by British researchers in an effort to develop a rapid, non-invasive way to detect the disease.
The British government said on Saturday that it had given £ 500,000 ($ 606,000) to the study, which will be conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Durham University and a British charity, Medical Detection Dogs.
“Biodetection dogs are already detecting specific cancers, and we believe this innovation could deliver rapid results as part of our broader testing strategy,” said Innovation Minister James Bethell.
Six dogs – labradors and cocker spaniels – get samples of the smell of COVID-19 patients from London hospitals and learn to distinguish their smell from that of people who are not infected.
Medical detection dogs said it had previously trained dogs to detect certain cancers, Parkinson’s disease and malaria.
If successful, an individual dog can monitor up to 250 people per hour and be used in public areas and airports.
Researchers in the United States and France are also trying to train dogs to detect the disease.
A small number of dogs are also known to contract COVID-19, likely from their owners, according to veterinarians in the United States, the Netherlands, and Hong Kong.