Meet the Six Dogs Being Trained to Sniff Out Coronavirus
These cute canines could be the best line of defense against the spread of COVID-19.
They say dogs are a man's best friend, and that's never been more evident than now. Besides giving us unconditional love and comfort during quarantine, dogs are actually proving to be just as important on the front lines as they are in our families. In fact, these good boys (and girls!) may even be the key to stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
In March, researchers from Durham University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine joined forces with charity organization, Medical Detection Dogs, to see if dogs can sniff out COVID-19. The study, which received a £500,000 (or over $600,000) grant from the British government on May 15, involves a group of trained service dogs nicknamed the "Super Six." The pack includes two yellow Labradors, one white Labradoodle, and three cocker spaniels, who will be given dead samples of the virus to smell, similar to how airport security dogs are trained to recognize illegal substances.
Respiratory diseases are known to change body odors, and in the past, our canine companions have been able to detect malaria, cancer, diabetes, and Parkinson's disease, before symptoms appeared. This is all thanks to a dog's powerful nose, which contains more than 300 million scent receptors. Scientists are hoping that these adorable pups will be able to apply the same sensory skills to the coronavirus.
It will take six to eight weeks to train the team, using sterilized face masks and nylon socks in a process called "odor imprinting." If the experiment is successful, the hounds will be deployed at airports and entry points around the U.K. in the next six months. Each dog would be able to screen up to 250 people per hour.
Here's a video outlining the rigorous training course:
And don't be concerned about the four-legged friends themselves. According to experts, dogs have a very low risk of contracting the virus. "Our dogs will be trained on a dead virus and then have no contact with the individuals they are screening but will sniff the air around the person," Medical Detection Dogs representative, Gemma Butlin, told CNN.
In the long run, this would be a game-changer for health and safety measures around the world. The quick procedure is potentially more accurate than recent coronavirus security methods, like thermal imaging, which only scans passengers' temperatures. It would also eliminate the need for a 14-day self-quarantine.
"The basic idea is we can screen travelers innocently coming into this country who may be carrying COVID-19, detect those people and isolate them from the rest of the community," professor Steve Lindsay, a public health entomologist at Durham University, also told CNN. Dogs, here to save the day! And for more canine information, check out What Your Dog Can't Do During the Pandemic.