Coronavirus: UK government funds study looking at whether dogs can sniff for COVID-19

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The UK government is currently supporting a research trial by funding a study looking at whether dogs can detect coronavirus in humans from odor samples.

Disease control experts from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, in collaboration with Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University, are looking at a group of dogs they are calling the “Super Six” made up of both Labradors and Cocker Spaniels.

The UK government announced on Friday that it awarded the team with more than $605,205 (£500,000) to further their study.

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“If successful, this approach could revolutionize how we diagnose the virus, leading to the rapid screening of high numbers of people, which could be profoundly impactful and help get our lives back to some sort of normality,” said James Logan, lead researcher of the study.

Read more: UK team trains dogs to sniff out coronavirus in people

A Cocker Spaniel attends the World Dog Show in Budapest. (Reuters)
A Cocker Spaniel attends the World Dog Show in Budapest. (Reuters)

Researchers said that if the trial gathers enough evidence to determine a successful outcome, the first set of dogs could be deployed to key points of entry into the UK within six months to assist in screening arriving passengers from abroad.

The same team conducting the research has previously worked to prove that dogs can detect odors from humans with a malaria infection with extremely high accuracy.

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“Our previous work has shown that malaria has a distinctive odor, and with Medical Detection Dogs, we successfully trained dogs to accurately detect malaria. This, combined with the knowledge that respiratory disease can change body odor, makes us hopeful that the dogs can also detect COVID-19,” Logan said.

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