The United Kingdom is conducting a trial to discover if airport sniffer dogs can be used to detect the novel coronavirus in airline passengers.
According to CNN, researchers behind the trial claimed viruses often change the body odor of those infected. Though the deviation is too minute for humans to detect, it is not too subtle for canines. In addition, the changes in body odor occur even before symptoms show, meaning the dogs could help pick up on asymptomatic carriers.
The new trial is not without precedent. Dogs have been used in the past to detect other types of infections and diseases, such as malaria, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. Canines can also detect when an epileptic is about to have a seizure, with some service animals sounding the alarm a full 45 minutes before the event even occurs, per Business Insider. Professor James Logan, lead researcher on the project and head of the department of disease control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, explained the tests.
“It builds up on years of research that we’ve already done as a team to demonstrate that people who have a malaria infection have a distinctive body odor and we’ve shown that dogs can be trained to detect that with very high accuracy.”
Other members of the team include scientists and experts from Durham University and the charity Medical Detection Dogs.
Currently, six dogs — all Labradors or cocker spaniels — have been recruited for the trial, which was just awarded more than £500,000 (over $600,000) by the British government.
The canines, dubbed “The Super Six” are currently undergoing training, which consists of giving the dogs clothing samples of those infected with the disease and those who have not. This generally means face masks, but can also include items such as nylon socks, a particularly good odor carrier.
Though the trial is still in the early stages, experts are hoping that the sniffing dogs could be deployed to UK airports within the next six months and screen as many as 250 people each hour. Dr. Claire Guest, CEO and co-founder of Medical Detection Dogs, elaborated.
“Hopefully this will prevent a second peak and enable precious NHS resources to be used where most needed. We are incredibly proud that a dog’s nose could once again save many lives.”
The trial is the second piece of good news this week for the airline industry, which has suffered intense financial losses due to the pandemic.
The first was the Monday announcement of a possible COVID-19 vaccine following successful human trials. Upon the learning that the medicine could be available within months should testing continue to prove positive, stocks for the major carriers, such as United Airlines, jumped as much as 21 percent, as was previously covered by The Inquisitr.