• Dogs trained to detect COVID-19 through scent

    Date:18 May 2020 Author: Kyro Mitchell

    Reports of dogs ‘sniffing out cancer’ has been documented as far back as the 1980’s. Now it seems as though researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) want to use these remarkable noses to sniff out COVID-19 in asymptomatic patients.

    The reason canines are able to use their sense of smell to sniff out harmful diseases and viruses is down to the fact that infected cells produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that have distinctive odours and are present “in human blood, saliva, sweat, urine, breath and feces”, says Cynthia Otto doctor of veterinary medicine and a director of Penn Vet’s Working Dog Centre.

    Getting the canines to sniff out COVID-19 will involve eight dogs being trained in a laboratory setting. Over three weeks, using a technique called ‘odour imprinting’, they will learn to recognise the smell of COVID-19 in saliva and urine samples from infected patients.

    Investigators will then document whether the dogs can discriminate between COVID-19 positive and COVID-19 negative samples in a laboratory setting, establishing the platform for testing to determine if the dogs can positively identify COVID-19 infected people.

    “This study will harness the dog’s extraordinary ability to support the nation’s COVID-19 surveillance systems, with the goal of reducing community spread,” says Otto. “The potential impact of these dogs and their capacity to detect COVID-19 could be substantial.”

    Image: Pixabay

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    May/June 2020