SPONSORED:

Reseachers investigating whether dogs can detect coronavirus

Reseachers investigating whether dogs can detect coronavirus
© Getty Images

University of Pennsylvania researchers have enlisted eight Labrador retrievers to determine whether canines can sniff odors associated with COVID-19 in an attempt to identify potential carriers.

If the trials are successful, dogs could be used in airports, businesses or hospitals to detect even asymptomatic cases of the virus, according to The Washington Post

Cynthia Otto, director of the Working Dog Center at Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine and a leader for the project, told the newspaper that research indicates viruses do produce specific odors.

ADVERTISEMENT

"We don't know that this will be the odor of the virus, per se, or the response to the virus, or a combination," said Otto. "But the dogs don't care what the odor is. … What they learn is that there's something different about this sample than there is about that sample."

Otto also said that the most challenging part of her research testing would be identifying the virus in actual humans, adding that the outcome could provide "a lot of opportunity" if it is successful.

The head of the disease control department at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, where similar research is underway, said in a statement that virus-sniffing canines could be a "new diagnostic tool could revolutionize our response to COVID-19," according to the Post.

James Logan said that his research team is ready to start gathering COVID-19 samples "within a matter of weeks" and collaborate with the charity Medical Detection Dogs to commence training more canines.

He added that if the program yielded accurate results, dogs could potentially examine nearly 250 people per hour.

Research at the school has already shown that canines can detect malaria.

Aside from canine training to detect bombs, drugs, or other contraband items, dogs have been used in the past to sniff out ailments such as malaria.