This post was originally posted on https://www.medicaldetectiondogs.org.uk
It has already been proved that dogs can accurately detect the odour of human disease. Over the past 12 years, Medical Detection Dogs’ commitment to scientifically rigorous research has established a strong evidence base and transformed the understanding of canine olfactory ability.
Our peer-reviewed research supports the belief that diseases have their own unique odour and we are now applying our expertise to investigate whether medical detection dogs can be trained to detect COVID-19. Our experience tells us they can, and we believe this could be an important part of the efforts to overcome this epidemic.
A dog’s incredible sense of smell is thanks to the complex structure of its nose, which contains over 300 million scent receptors, compared to 5 million in a human. This means they have an incredible ability to detect odours, and are the best biosensors known to man which combined with their ability to learn makes them perfect for detection dog. They are already commonly used to detect odours associated with drugs, explosives, and food, which most of us will have encountered at airports, and our research has shown they can detect the odour of disease with high levels of accuracy.
This project has attracted backing from the UK government and public donations, which have put us, together with our collaborators at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Durham University, in a position to begin this work. The bulk of this funding will be used by LSHTM, which will soon start sample collection and we have started first-stage training of the dogs we have identified as having the potential for this work. Further funding is essential to help accelerate the time frame by facilitating quicker sample collection and giving us greater resources for training the dogs. It will also mean no delays between the proof of principle research and scale-up.