Already trained to sniff out drugs, narcotics and explosive substances, dogs are likely to emerge as front-line Covid-19 warriors as they are capable of detecting signs of coronavirus infection in humans after a few days of training.
Researchers from France, Lebanon and Germany have found that dogs are capable of identifying people infected with the coronavirus infections. In Chile, police dogs are being trained to identify people who are infected, even in the earliest stages of the disease.
A German veterinary university’s related study on dogs was conducted jointly with the German armed forces, the Hannover Medical School and the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf.
According to the study, eight dogs from the German armed forces were trained for a week to study coronavirus cases. Among the 1,000 people presented before them, the dogs identified positive cases with 94 per cent accuracy.
The researchers at the veterinary university made the dogs sniff the saliva of the people with some among them being samples of coronavirus positive patients. The dogs managed to accurately identify the coronavirus cases from the bunch of samples.
A professor behind the pilot project explained the findings saying the metabolism of a coronavirus patient is completely different and dogs are able to detect this difference through smell. Dogs have a smelling capacity 1,000-times stronger than humans.
Researchers believe this finding can help use dogs to sniff out suspected coronavirus cases at airports, border crossings and stadiums and other busy areas quite easily, said the report.
“We think that this works because the metabolic processes in the body of a diseased patient are completely changed,” Maren von Koeckritz-Blickwede, a professor at the university, said in a YouTube video about the project. “We think that the dogs are able to detect a specific smell.” Von Koeckritz-Blickwede said the next step will be to train dogs to differentiate Covid samples from other diseases like influenza.
In another pilot study at the University of Helsinki, dogs trained as medical diagnostic assistants were taught to recognise the previously unknown odor signature of the Covid-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus. And they learned with astonishing success: After only a few weeks, the first dogs were able to accurately distinguish urine samples from Covid-19 patients from urine samples of healthy individuals.
According to researchers from the German Assistance Dogs Centre, dogs can also identify skin cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer or prostate cancer very reliably. Besides cancer, the dogs can also detect Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers from France and Lebanon have also been testing whether 20 Belgian malinois dogs can be trained to detect the coronavirus disease in humans. The results have been 95 per cent positive, with few errors, and he plans to publish them in a scientific journal. On one occasion, for example, the dogs identified as positive a sample from a person who had tested negative for the virus – but when the sample was sent for additional testing, it turned out the dogs were correct and the patient was, indeed, infected.
In United Kingdom, the trial has been started to find out whether dogs can detect coronavirus infections. The Government has allocated a sum of over £500,000 to a specialist team of researchers for this project.
In the first phase of the trial, researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) in collaboration with Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University will determine if dogs are able to detect the disease in humans from their odour, even in cases where the infection is asymptomatic.
Six dogs, a mixture of Labradors and cocker spaniels, will be trained to identify the infection from samples collected from coronavirus patients by NHS staff in London hospitals.
Wednesday, 29 July 2020 | Rajesh Kumar | New Delhi