In the past, dogs have been trained to smell and detect malaria in humans at a rate exceeding WHO standards for testing. Now Bloomberg reports, hopeful scientists in London are hoping they can be trained to do the same with the COVID-19 virus.
Bloomberg reporters spoke with scientists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who are funding a project that seeks to train dogs to detect COVID-19 carriers — particularly those without symptoms.
“We know diseases have odors — including respiratory diseases such as influenza — and that those odors are in fact quite distinct,” James Logan, the head of the school’s Department of Disease Control, told Bloomberg. “There is a very, very good chance that COVID-19 has a specific odor, and if it does I am really confident that the dogs would be able to learn that smell and detect it.”
While the program is in its infancy, Fortune reports that if the dogs can be successfully trained to detect the smell of humans with COVID-19, they could be helping people detect the spread of the virus in the United Kingdom by this summer.
Previously, dogs have been trained to effectively detect Malaria, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and even cancer, the New York Post reports, this is all due to their highly developed sense of smell that can detect small changes even down to a change in skin temperature.
If the dogs are found to be able to smell coronavirus, they will undergo a six-week training program under the guidance of the Medical Detection Dogs organization in the United Kingdom. The organization states they will use the same training program they use to teach dogs to detect other diseases.
If the research proves that dogs can in fact detect COVID-19, CBS reports they could likely be used at travel checkpoints to help prevent further spread, and even help to prevent the virus from returning after the current outbreak has declined, rightfully earning their title as “man’s best friend” once again.