Sniffer dogs are being trained to detect Covid - here’s how you can help them

Those who think they have possible symptoms of coronavirus can take a test to find out, but a new trial is now using sniffer dogs as a way to detect Covid-19 through the sense of smell.

It has been found that Covid-19 has a specific odour, with a team of researchers currently running a trial to see if dogs can detect this change in body odour in humans.

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Sniffer dogs as a potential diagnostic tool for coronavirus

The new trial is a collaboration between the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the charity Medical Detection Dogs (MDD) and Durham University, and aims to find out if dogs could be used as a new rapid, non-invasive diagnostic tool for the virus.

If the trial - which is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care - is successful, then these dogs could be deployed to ports of entry in the UK within six months, in order to assist with screening on people travelling from abroad or other crowded places.

Each dog will have the potential to screen up to 250 people per hour, which could have a major impact on people's ability to travel, attend sporting events, or go to their place of work.

How does the trial work?

The research involves training six available bio-detection dogs to distinguish between positive and negative odour samples.

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The team is collecting samples of breath and body odour from people in England and Wales who have mild Covid-19 symptoms, and are due to have a swab test, or have had a swab test in the past 72 hours.

So far, the team has just over half the amount of positive samples they require, and are also collecting samples from 23 NHS trusts’ staff members.

However, the research team needs to collect more samples from the public before they can tell for certain whether dogs can detect coronavirus accurately.

How to get involved

If you would like to get involved in the trial, anyone in England or Wales who has mild coronavirus symptoms, and who is due to have a swab test or has already had one in the past 72 hours, can provide samples of breath and body odour by wearing a mask for three hours, and nylon socks and a t-shirt for 12 hours.

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You can also volunteer for the trial if you are a current NHS staff member or currently living with an NHS staff member.

Those willing to volunteer must be aged 16 years old or older.

To find out more information or to get involved with the trial, contact ARCTEC by calling 0207 927 2777 or by emailing [email protected].

The volunteer phone line is open from 8am to 8pm on weekdays, and 9am to 7pm on weekends and bank holidays.