Dogs are well known for being used by security forces to detect drugs or weapons – but their superior sense of smell can also detect illness.
One charity which trains dogs to detect disease in humans is teaming up with Durham University to start trying to detect coronavirus in patients.
Dr Claire Guest, the CEO of Medical Detection Dogs, told Euronews dogs are capable of detecting a change in the odour of a human, caused by disease or infection.
With testing for COVID-19 so vital in the fight to halt the spread of the disease, the addition of canine detection would potentially be hugely beneficial.
“You have to teach the dog to find that unique odour by presenting samples from individuals who have the disease against individuals who are known to be healthy,” says Dr Guest, who compares the process to that of wine tasting.
“First of all you learn the region of the grape, the disease, as you get more and more complicated you could even pick out the individual vine and that’s the detection of the virus, that’s complex discrimination.
“Once you’ve gotten to that point a dog could walk up to an individual who’s giving out the odour of a virus and the dog could be trained to sit in front of them and say this person has in fact got the virus, even if they’re asymptomatic.”
She added her team would be going through normal, ethical medical processes to collect samples from patients. The identity of the patients won’t be known, but the dogs will see them as either positives or negatives, and be trained to detect the virus in that way.