One of the brightest beacons of hope in these dark times is that, in between vaccine research, more rapid tests and new epidemiological models, the scientific community is working relentlessly to find the most effective ways to stop the spread of COVID-19.
And dogs might join the fight soon, too. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a top institution in the field of infectious diseases, teamed up with British charity Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University to research how man's best friends can be trained to sniff out Coronavirus. The idea is that dogs will help provide non-invasive diagnosis towards the end of the epidemic, for example, by identifying people carrying the virus in airports or other public spaces.
“Our previous work demonstrated that dogs can detect odours from humans with a malaria infection with extremely high accuracy – above the World Health Organization standards for a diagnostic," said Professor James Logan, Head of the Department of Disease Control at LSHTM.
“It's early days for COVID-19 odour detection. We do not know if COVID-19 has a specific odour yet, but we know that other respiratory diseases change our body odour so there is a chance that it does. And if it does dogs will be able to detect it. This new diagnostic tool could revolutionise our response to COVID-19,” he added.
As surprising as it may sound, the idea isn’t new. In addition to malaria, dogs are already being trained to detect diseases like cancer, Parkinson's and some bacterial infections.
“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,” commented Dr Claire Guest, CEO and Co-Founder of Medical Detection Dogs.
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicinehas set up a Response Fund to accelerate the research of effective solutions to the pandemic. A donation to them will go a long way in speeding up the pace of research and providing reliable, scientific information about the emergency.