The dogs which are being taught to sniff out coronavirus have had their first experience of a busy train station as they train to do it for real as soon as early 2021.
The dog and their handlers from the charity Medical Detection Dogs spent the morning training at London’s Paddington Station before showing the Duchess of Cornwall and the health secretary what they can do.
The animals can sniff out the virus in humans in less than a second, even those who have it asymptomatically and aren’t displaying any signs of coronavirus.
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said on Tuesday that you could immediately think of several uses they could put this to, and find people who don’t know they have COVID 19.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall who’s the Patron of the dog’s charity, said that she was optimistic that the Government would take note of the dog’s progress.
She said after watching the demonstration with the Secretary of State. “How could you not be impressed by them?”
The dogs have learned how to detect the virus in laboratory conditions but this was the first time they’ve been taken to a location where they might soon be detecting COVID 19 in a trainload or a planeload of passengers.
COVID like numerous diseases has an odour, and the Medical Detection Dogs also trains dogs to detect cancer, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes.
This scientific trial, with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is progressing well but they only have half the number of positive samples they need.
Professor James Logan from LSHTM urged anyone who has tested positive for coronavirus to contact them to get a sample pack which the dogs will then sniff.
The pack contains a mask, a t-shirt and socks which anyone with a recent positive test are asked to wear for a few hours before sending them back.
The trial is also working with airports to see how the dogs might be used there to open up travel once again.
Claire Guest, the co-founder of Medical Detection Dogs, said the animals could be a gamechanger for passengers travelling under COVID conditions and it was a wonderful chance to illustrate to the Secretary of State how fast these dogs can work.
There have been in-depth studies that have found that people emit a smell when unwell and the results strongly support that humans emit a chemical cue during a generalised sickness response that can be sensed by others.
However, because the new study was performed in a laboratory, it’s not evident whether the same results would be seen outside the lab in people who have other infections, and perhaps this is the same for the doggies.
However, dogs can pick up on their owner’s body giving out different smells than what would be normal, and dogs have been known to detect seizures minutes or even hours before they’ve occurred – this is because their owner’s body gives out different scents and signals and the dog can detect the dissimilarity.