Detection dogs trained to sniff out coronavirus
Two Belgian universities are working to train dogs to detect coronavirus infections in crowds of people
Faster than a test
The universities are collecting samples of sweat from coronavirus patients to train the dogs to detect the subtle difference between the odour of sweat infected with the virus and sweat that is not. According to Dr Chris Callewaert of UGent’s microbial ecology department, the dogs should be ready to go to work by the end of the month.
“The dogs must be trained with a specific sweat profile,” Callewaert told Radio 2. “We know that the coronavirus causes a specific odour in sweat. So we are collecting as many sample of sweat as we can. We need samples of sweat from both people who are infected and from those who are not.”
Sniffer dogs provide very accurate results, but a test can always be done to determine if quarantine is necessary
The idea is to loan the dogs out to crowded areas such as airports and eventually festivals or sport events. Other countries are also training sniffer dogs for the purpose; they are already in use in Dubai, for instance.
“If dogs sniff around among people at the entrance, people who are detected as having corona can leave the area at once,” said Callewaert. “Sniffer dogs provide very accurate results, but a test can then be done, of course, to determine if quarantine is necessary. That’s all much faster than waiting until someone has symptoms, then doing a test and waiting for the result.”
While the sweat might smell different, it does not actually spread the virus, so the dogs are not in danger of getting the virus themselves, Callewaert explained. Anyone, infected or not, wanting to donate their sweat can contact the researcher at email@example.com.
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